Poetry Recommendations – Asking for a Friend

Hello out there!

In my last book review I reviewed one of Amanda Lovelace’s poetry collections and like I stated in my review her work has created a deeper appreciation for poetry. Now recently I have stumbled upon poetry accounts on Instagram and I have also discovered poetry reading videos on Tik Tok. I usually send the really sweet videos to my boyfriend (who isn’t a reader) and one of them made him want to get the collection that that particular poem was from which warmed my heart especially since he very rarely shows an interest in books. He still hasn’t even started reading the book he stole off of my bookshelf to read that silly boy!

That being said, now I want to know if any of you out there have any particular poetry books that speak to your heart and soul for us/me to try! Just leave a comment down below and I’d be more than happy to check it out!

Break Your Glass Slippers by Amanda Lovelace

RATING: 5/5

SYNOPSIS: A collection of poems mirroring a retelling of Cinderella interwoven with tales from the poetess’ life experiences.

Reviewing poetry is difficult for me because it is such a raw and emotional artform and just like any piece of art some resonates more deeply than others. Amanda Lovelace is one of those poets that resonates with me. I find her work to be full of emotion and while she has truly been through a lot I love that she always ends her collections on a note of hope and empowerment. It’s a beautiful journey to go on and I enjoy going through it again and again. I have never really been a huge poetry fan, but through her work I am definitely beginning to find a greater love, appreciation, and understanding for the artform. There is just something so honest and vulnerable in her writing that I don’t think I can quite capture in a quick review. It’s one of those experiences you just have to pick up the book and see for yourself. There are so many times that poems just feel inaccessible to me, but every collection by Lovelace that I have picked up feels fresh and entirely relatable. Although I don’t personally relate to a lot of the subject matter that these poems hold it is truly easy to empathize with the struggles that so many go through and continue to experience. I truly admire Lovelace for being able to put these emotions and experiences into writing. I can’t emphasize enough how honest and vulnerable her work is and how at the end you feel touched but also hopeful. It’s been a joy to see her poetry evolve over the years and I can’t wait to pick up her next collection.

The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 5/5

SYNOPSIS: Based upon the book of the same name referenced in The Grisha series of books, The Lives of Saints tells the stories of the various saints that the people of Ravka pray to.

As always I loved this latest novel by Leigh Bardugo. I simply adore the way she has completely built and fleshed out this wonderful little world of hers. Every story she writes builds upon the others and this is no exception. The saints are an integral part of The Grisha trilogy and a huge part of Inej’s character in the Six of Crows duology so to have this little book that is such a huge part of the world is a delight. I loved how the stories were fairy tale-esque and how they fit in narratively with stories that we tell about our own saints and their miracles. I personally think that Bardugo has truly mastered the art of Russian writing. Her collection of fairy tales from The Grishaverse and this book read to me the exact same way as my book of English translations of Russian fairy tales. Every story is full of magic and wonder which really helps to create the mythic and epic renown that each of these saints holds to the various characters in her other novels. Whenever I read her additions to this world I really feel it coming to life in the most minutest of details. The illustrations that accompany each Saint’s story at the beginning are simply gorgeous. Zollinger did a great job creating art that felt like the art that you see in churches and on icons of Catholic saints. I love the soft, vintage-y feel that the portraits have and I think they fit the overall aesthetic of what this book represents. This book was a nice, quick read and since I have yet to find a book by Leigh Bardugo that I don’t love I’m going to wrap this up by saying overall I thought this was a wonderful addition to her world and I can’t wait to read the next installation in her Nikolai series.

Legendary by Stephanie Garber

RATING: 4/5

SYNOPSIS: Now that Scarlet and Tella are free from the clutches of their abusive father it is time for another game. Tella has been searching for their mother ever since she disappeared and finally has a promising lead, but there’s a catch. In order for Tella to receive information about the whereabouts of their mother she must do the impossible, discover Legend’s true identity.

PREVIOUS: Caraval

When I first started this book I was a little disappointed that it was from Tella’s point of view instead of Scarlet’s, but now that I’ve finished it wouldn’t have made much sense for Scarlet to play again since she no longer has anything to lose by not playing. However, I didn’t like that Scarlet had a lot going on in the background that we didn’t get to see because Tella was the focal point. In Caraval it wasn’t a issue with both girls being important because Tella was missing for the majority of the book. While I did like the mystery revolving around what Scarlet was up to, I didn’t like that her reaction to discovering a lot of what was being kept secret from her was just a minor blip especially since she made so many important decisions in the first book based off of what was going on. I also didn’t like that Scarlet and Julian had a major disagreement and that it was all in the background so when they made up it was unclear how genuine to was or what led to the reconciliation. I really enjoyed all the twists and turns that the story took though, especially all the backstory that we got about Scarlet and Tella’s mother. I’m really interested in seeing how their relationship with their mother develops since she’s been missing for so long and both girls had different reactions to her disappearance. I also liked that we got to see a different side to Dante than we got in the first book. I do wish that we got more Julian in this book though, especially since he played many important roles in keeping Tella alive this go around. To be honest this book felt like the story that Garber wanted to tell in the first place but had to write Caraval first to set up the premise and create the world. I’m not sure how I felt about the game being real this time and how all the clues were just for Tella. While her problems with the Fates did add an element of urgency to the game I thought that the fact that she wasn’t truly competing against other people removed that time bomb element that I liked from the first book. I was also surprised that Legend’s identity was revealed in this book and that it was kind of given away so early before the big reveal. Part of me wanted to believe that we were being thrown on the wrong track because it almost felt too obvious. I wanted to be more surprised as to his real name and it makes me wonder what sort of mystery will surround the final book because all the important questions have now been answered. I really can’t wait to see more of the Fates. I find them to be extremely dangerous and very creepy so I’m excited to see how they develop. Overall this was a solid second book in a series and I can’t wait to keep reading.

Straight On Till Morning by Liz Braswell

RATING: 5/5

SYNOPSIS: Four years ago Wendy Darling found Peter Pan’s shadow and kept it safe hoping that he would return for it and in return take her with him to Neverland, but he never did. Now at sixteen Wendy is the same dreamy girl that wished for adventures, but when her parents threaten to ship her off to Ireland to teach her to grow up Wendy trades Peter’s shadow to his greatest enemy to get her chance at her biggest adventure.

Although I am woefully behind in this series of Disney tales with a twist I will say that of the ones I have read this one is by far my favorite! Peter Pan is one of my all time favorite stories and I loved Braswell’s twist on it was both interesting and stayed true to the heart of the original story. My favorite improvement on the original is that Wendy and Tink end up being best friends. Their friendship was so integral to the lot and I loved the little back and forth that they had. It was really great to see their friendship grow as their adventure went on. I also loved the concept that Neverland is shaped by the imaginations of kids all over the world. The idea that although Neverland was Wendy’s safe haven and escape from her dreary world, it’s also the safe haven for many other people and it looks differently than the one Wendy imagined was really cool thought and I liked that it added dimension tot the landscape of Neverland and gave Braswell the freedom to take what we already know and love and make it into her own. I thought that Braswell did a great job in her characterization of Peter Pan himself. She really played into the fact that he is a child and will always be a child and I feel like in a lot of adaptations that aspect gets missed in order to give the story a darker tone. I liked that he did come across as a boy and that his attention swings were treated as such and that Wendy herself noticed that he was just a boy. I’m not sure how I felt about Mr. Smee being a product of Hook’s decent into madness though. It’s a very interesting concept for sure, but I can’t decide how well I liked the execution. I think I would have liked it more and would have believed in Hook’s madness just a little bit more if there were more moments where he had actual conversations with Mr. Smee in front of the other pirates or Wendy. I also felt like the witch character that Hook goes to for help in capturing Peter Pan was a little random and out of place. She was only utilized for that one moment and I either wanted the magic to have some greater cost or for the witch to have a bigger presence in the story. I also wished that John and Michael had larger presences in the story since they also went to Neverland with Wendy in the original, but I also understand that this was about Wendy and her journey and a slightly older John and Michael had no place in it. I didn’t like how Mrs. Darling was characterized though. In the source material she is a very loving mother and is implied to have been very similar to Wendy in her youth and it was very hard for me to believe that she would be so against Wendy’s imagination and very supportive of shipping her off to Ireland in order to force her to grow up. Overall though, I thoroughly enjoyed this twist on one of my favorite tales and it definitely has a spot in my list of favorite Peter Pan adaptations.

City of Lies by Victoria Thompson

20200722_204227

RATING: 4/5

SYNOPSIS: Elizabeth Miles is a grifter and very good at her job, but when a con goes south she takes refuge with a group of suffragists and is forced to decide between sticking to the job or letting people see the real her.

 

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book, but what I got definitely wasn’t it and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. While I wanted there to be some sort of mystery element, I did enjoy the suspense of Elizabeth’s secrets piling up. I absolutely adored how street smart she was and I loved her thought process as she made the decisions that she makes in order to put herself in a good position. I only had two complaints, I thought that the villain was too much of a melodramatic, mustache-twirling villain and I thought that the romance between her and Gideon was too much love at first sight (which is not typically a romance angle that I respond well to). While I did enjoy how dangerous Oscar Thornton was as an adversary, there were quite a few times where I felt like he was almost too over the top villainous. Part of me felt that some of his more villainous deeds could have had more shock value if his true nature was kept under wraps for just a bit longer. There were a couple of times where I was thinking “Of course he would do that too, he’s the bad guy” and while I don’t want redeemable villains, I also don’t want my villain to do every bad thing that you could possibly think of. He definitely deserved to get conned, but I wanted the reveal of just how badly he deserved it to have more oomph. Elizabeth is definitely the kind of lady that you could fall head over heels in love with, I also wanted more build up between her and Gideon. I liked that she wasn’t allowing herself to fall for him because she was trying to keep up her con and I wanted that thread to continue for however long this series will be, but I do understand that once her lies all caught up to her some things had to give. I just personally am not a big fan of instant romances and to me that’s what this felt like. This book has such a great cast of characters though and I’m so excited to watch them all develop. Anna was the most unexpected stand out to me. I love, love, loved how she goes from meek and unassuming to gaining so much confidence! I also enjoy her and Elizabeth’s friendship and I’m excited to see how that continues to grow. Mrs. Bates, Gideon’s mother, is another stand out character for me. I love how she took both Elizabeth and Anna under her wing and she was just an all-around great female role-model and I’m excited for more of her as well. I also liked the Old Man and there’s still so much mystery surrounding him that I can’t wait to dive into. Although I did guess the twist when it comes to his character, it was still a fun reveal. This book has the winning combination of a great premise, setting, characters, and writing. I can’t wait to continue with the series.

Queen’s Shadow by E. K. Johnston

20200705_110541

RATING: 4/5

SYNOPSIS: Padmé Amidala has reached the end of her term as Queen of Naboo and now turns her sights to new goals and a new purpose, but when the new Queen asks her to be the Senator for Naboo in the Galactic Senate she must navigate a new political world and learn how to balance what she wants with what is best for the Republic.

 

Padmé Amidala is one of my all-time favorite Star Wars characters and to this day I still think she deserves a better ending than what she got. I absolutely loved how Johnston framed the story with it starting at her end of her term as Queen and ending with the events of Revenge of the Sith. It gave me chills and it also reignited my passion for her to have a better ending than what she got. Obviously Padmé has the greatest wardrobe of any character and I adored how her elaborate dresses and headpieces actually served a purpose. I thought the idea of distracting from the face with spectacle (or to create any sort of distraction really) was a brilliant idea and it made me appreciate her character even more. It was really awesome to get to explore Naboo culture more than what is shown in the films and it just made me enjoy so many little details that could be considered throw aways even more than what I already did. I also loved how we got to learn more about her handmaidens. They play such an important role in the first two Star Wars prequel films, but we never know much about them beyond the fact that they are pretty much there to die for Padmé. I loved how she had such a special connection with each person in her inner circle, but I loved that she was closest to Sabé, her look alike. I liked that the story alternated between the two girls and I loved that each of them had their own issues to overcome, but at the end of the day could be there for each other. Sabé plays such an important role in The Phantom Menace and I liked that her importance continued in this novel as well as getting more backstory on her and why she’s willing to do what she does for Padmé. It was awesome to get to see Padmé in the beginnings of her time as Senator of Naboo and I liked that being a Senator didn’t come easy for her. I liked that the role of Senator demanded that she act differently than in her role as Queen, but at the end of the day her goal of doing what’s best for the people was her common thread between the two roles that she has played. I also liked how we got to see the beginnings of the Rebel Alliance and her part that she gets to play in that development. I also loved that characters that we are introduced to in the Clone Wars television series showed up as well and we got to see the beginnings of her relationship with those characters as well. I appreciated that Anakin wasn’t a major focus in this book. Even though she is forever going to be tied to him and his story, I liked that this story was just allowed to be just about Padmé. Of course he was alluded to, but you can’t get around that with how his origins played a part in what Padmé wanted her big project to be. Overall it would have taken a lot for me to hate a book about Padmé Amidala and I really enjoyed getting to read something where she got to take center stage for once.

Mother Knows Best by Serena Valentino

20200705_110623

RATING: 5/5

SYNOPSIS: The story of Mother Gothel before the events of Tangled.

 

This series has had a lot of hits and misses for me and luckily Mother Knows Best was a hit. I really liked how all the events in Gothel’s life leading up to Tangled made her into the villain that she is. I also liked how rich her backstory was. I loved that the sundrop flower was her only connection to anything magic and I loved how her ambitions were related to being powerful instead of being beautiful the way the movie indicates. I think this book really added dimension to her as a villain although I do wish that her narcissism progressed more throughout the book because by the time the story caught up to what happens in Tangled it felt like that trait came out of nowhere. I really enjoyed seeing Gothel go from an optimistic, good person to the villain that we know and love. I also wished that there was more interaction with her sisters before everything fell apart. I loved all of their distinct personalities and how they all played off of each other as three parts of the same whole, I just wanted more out of it. I felt like the sisters weren’t allowed to develop much past their defining traits that made the opposites and Gothel had a serious advantage in the character department because we’ve already been exposed to who she is as a character from the movie. I really enjoyed how Valentino expanded on the sundrop flower because all we learn from the movie is that it has the power to heal and bring back  youth and I liked that we get an origin location for this plant and a reason why Gothel’s flower is the very last one. It made her desire to keep the flower hidden tangible and I liked that it makes the events of the movie an even more desperate reaction on her part. Just as secrets are her downfall in the movie, I liked that secrets were part of her downfall in the book. I still don’t know how I feel about the Weird Sisters though, I have been enjoying their meddling into all of these stories that I know so well, but I also keep wishing that these books were contained to just the villains story that is being focused on. I do like that the Weird Sisters have been connecting all of these villains together and I do like that they have been serving an important purpose thus far, but there have just been too many times where their presence just confuses me and I’m hoping that that confusion will dissipate when I read the next book in which they’re the focus. As always though I thought Valentino did a fantastic job with blending what we know from the films with this world that she is creating. It is both familiar and unknown and even though sometimes I don’t like the backstory she has created I am always eager to read what’s come next!

The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer

20200614_154242

RATING: 3/5

SYNOPSIS: Thalia Cutler is an ordinary stage magician, at least that’s what she always has believed, but when she miraculously escapes unscathed from a trick gone wrong she begins to wonder if maybe there is something that she doesn’t know about her family history.

 

I had such high hopes from this book and was unfortunately disappointed. Personally I felt like there was too much going on, first there was the fact that Thalia discovers that she can transform into an animal like a small section of the population, second there was the fact that because she had discovered this power and hadn’t taken her test that says she’s proficient in this power, manticores are now constantly stalking her, and third a rival magician was murdered and her manager was accused so she now seeks to prove his innocence. Of the three I think the murder subplot was the most superfluous. There were so many moments that it got dropped and then brought back up that I felt like even though the characters were treating it like a big deal, the writing didn’t reflect that. To me it didn’t add any urgency to the story the way that the manticore attacks did. Thalia wasn’t really actively trying to solve the murder and the conclusion of the investigation didn’t really add anything to her development or story, there could have been a different catalyst to her getting signed off for her trading. I also felt like the book couldn’t decide what kind of book it wanted to be because there was so much back and forth between the learning of her power and the mystery and they never seemed to blend together in a satisfying way. There was a lot of focus on her learning her power and trying to figure out how to control it, but the whole process left me very confused and with a lot of questions. The problem for me was that nobody could teach her because it’s unique to everyone which is a cool detail, but it didn’t make it very entertaining to read. This book was full of passive action rather than active action and I personally enjoy more active books. All the relationships felt superficial to me as well and I wanted to dive deeper into them. I loved that Thalia and Nutall had a father/daughter-esque relationship and I wanted more of that. I also appreciated the sibling relationship between Ryker and Nell and again wanted more of that. That’s my big critique of this book; I just wanted more. There were so many cool details that I wanted the author to go into more detail and it just never happened. I also didn’t like that so many details were dropped for long periods of time and then brought back at weird times. This book excelled when it was talking about stage magic though. I loved the Ostrava magic shop and I loved the detail of the magic shows that either were attended or Thalia performed. I even loved the magic lessons that Thalia was giving to Nell. I almost wish that the Trader/murder aspects of the book were gone and it was just about lady stage magicians in the early 1900s because that was such a fun aspect to explore. Overall I enjoyed this book, I just wish there had been more.

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

20200607_135500

RATING: 4/5

SYNOPSIS: In 1906 San Francisco there aren’t much prospects for a girl from Chinatown, but Mercy Wong won’t be deterred. She manages to finagle her way into an all-white girls school in order to further her education, but it comes at a price. When all her lies and secrets start to come to light, the great earthquake strikes turning everyone’s attention to things that are more important.

 

I haven’t come across any historical fiction dealing with the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, so when I found this book I knew I had to read it. I adored Mercy and I loved how all her actions were deeply rooted in her love for her family and her culture. I liked that her father was very much for being as American as he could be, while her mother kept their Chinese heritage and culture alive and I wish that that could have been touched on a little more. To me the dynamic of keeping tradition alive while also embracing your new home is more interesting than going to school, but I do think interesting dynamics were at play once Mercy was attending classes. I almost wish that the book had been her trying to get into the school rather than what happened once she was in the school. Her getting into the school and then trying to keep up the act of being a Chinese heiress did build up some nice tension and kept things interesting, especially when she was asked to do things in a traditional Chinese way because those are things she’s never learned because she’s American, but once the earthquake hit and her cover was blown all of the tension was gone. Lee tried to rebuild it as Mercy tried to find out what happened to her family, but it didn’t build as well as in the first part of the book. While the tonal shift was necessary, it did make me feel like the book was two separate stories trying to be one. I did love everyone coming together despite their races to have dinner together in the aftermath of the quake and I understand that having her actually being in the school helped to make this action a little easier to achieve since she had a bond with some of the refugees. I also liked that Lee didn’t shy away from the discrimination of the time. Not every character was accepting of Mercy being in the school and while by the end everyone came to at least appreciate her that didn’t stop some background characters from being racist. I also liked that even though Mercy is of Chinese descent and discriminated against for that, when everyone is coming together for their dinner even she has moments where she is a little discriminatory because of stereotypes that plague other minorities. As I said in the beginning I do wish that Mercy had spent more time at home with her family because their dynamic was much more interesting to me than her dynamic with her schoolmates. The characters living in Chinatown felt richer to me than the wealthy white girls that populated the school. Only a handful were given actual personalities, but I didn’t really care about them because the narrative didn’t really make me care. I was more absorbed with the Wong family and all the people that Mercy kept thinking about from back home. Overall though I really enjoyed this book and was very excited to explore a moment in U.S. History that I haven’t gotten to really explore before.