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July’s Poem of the Month

This is quite a topical poem, as it responds to Megan Kelly’s statement that Jesus was a white man. This has been a long debated topic, although it seems to be a no-brainer for those who know where He was born and raised. Yet a religion revolving around forgiveness and the man that embodies peace and represents becomes a symbol of white power and another method of division between races. While reciting this, the poet understandably becomes quite passionate and shaken as she gracefully disproves Kelly’s ludicrous proclamation. If anyone ever tries to tell you that Jesus was white, show them this poem.

And the News Reporter Says Jesus Is White by Crystal Valentine 

“And the news reporter says Jesus is white

She says it with a smile
Like it’s the most obvious thing in the world
So sure of herself
Of her privilege
Her ability to change history
Rewrite bodies to make them look like her

She says it the same way politicians say racism no longer exists
The same way police officers call dead black boys thugs
The same way white gentrifiers call Brooklyn home

She says it with an American accent
Her voice doing that American thing
Crawling out of her throat
Reaching to clasp onto something
That does not belong to her

I laugh to myself

What makes a black man a black man?
Is it a white woman’s confirmation?
Is it her head nod?
Is it the way she’s allowed to go on national television
And autocorrect the bible and God himself,
Tell him who his son really was?

What makes a black man a black man:
The way reporters retell their deaths like fairytales
The way they cannot outrun a bullet

How can she say Jesus was a white man
When he died the blackest way possible?

With his hands up
With his mother watching,
Crying at his feet
Her tears nothing more than gossip
For the news reporters or prophets to document
With his body left to sour in the sun
With his human stripped from his black

Remember that?
How the whole world was saved by a black man
By a man so loved by God,
He called him kin
He called him black

Now ain’t that suspicious?
Ain’t that news worthy?
Ain’t that something worth being killed over?”

Watch Valentine recite this poem here. Check out more about Crystal Valentine and her work by visiting her website or her Facebook.

The Woman in the Window: Book Review

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn published in 2018.

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“Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times…and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.”

This might end up being a short review because there are only so many different ways of saying “I love this book so much.”

I had the amusement of following Anna Fox, a former child psychologist living in her New York home, or should I say, never leaving her New York home. A traumatic incident leaves her with agoraphobia (an anxiety disorder that causes one to fear open and unfamiliar spaces), which causes her to be a prisoner in her own home. To pass the time, she watches her neighbours live their own lives. When the Russell family moves into the house across the park, Anna’s world is turned on its head. She finds solace in Jane Russell and her son Ethan, staying clear of the short-tempered Alistair Russell. One day she witnesses something that wasn’t for her eyes, yet the mixing of her medications and alcohol causes her accusations to sound…a bit untrustworthy to those around her. Fighting to be believed and convinced she is being gaslighted, we are by Anna’s side as secrets are spilled and true identities are revealed.

I hope I don’t sound like I’m exaggerating when I say this is one of the best books I’ve read in a really long time. There isn’t anything I avidly disliked about this story. It was beautifully crafted from the very first page to the last sentence. The Woman in the Window is the epitome of suspense. I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the novel, enthralled at each twist and turn (and there were quite a few twists). It was very Hitchcock-esque, which is ironic because the main character is an ardent fan of classic thriller movies.

One of the many aspects I adored was the short and sweet chapters. Overall, the book was organized by what day the chapters took place on, and the chapters that were within these sections were typically no longer than five pages or so. Personally, I love that. It builds a delectable tension that is meant to be savoured in quick bursts. The end of each chapter ended in thrilling one-liners that kept me wanting more. Actually, just by appearance, it’s one of my longer reads (a hearty 427 pages), yet I sped through it surprisingly quick. After reading some other reviews, I discovered this is not uncommon, so obviously others can’t keep themselves from putting this book down either.

Another thing I loved was Finn’s actual writing style. It was comfortable and casual, not too advanced or pretentious. Specifically, the imagery is picture-perfect. A huge reading pet-peeve I have is over-analyzed imagery. I don’t need a paragraph long description on the shape of one cloud or how the coffee tastes. Give me the necessary details with some classic metaphors so I can have a colourful view of my character’s surroundings and I’ll be happy. That’s what Finn gave me, and I’m so thankful I didn’t have to suffer through endless adjectives and pointless explanations.

The characters were quite intriguing, specifically our protagonist Anna Fox. I found myself pitying her and her situation, wanting to reach out and help her. But I also related to her and believe that any average person who reads this will also understand her emotions. I think everyone knows that frustrating feeling when what you’re saying is not believed by the majority of people. The motivation and determination one might feel to prove that they are right are palpable, and we see this through Anna. She’s likeable yet has her flaws, as every notable character does, and I was rooting for her every step of the way.

Now I need to address the ending—nothing will be spoiled, so don’t worry. There is definitely a major twist in the end that I didn’t see coming (though I’m rather naïve when it comes to story twists). The final scenes were dramatic but not impractical. It was very action-packed and made up for some sedated parts around the middle of the story. The ending surpassed my expectations and left me utterly satisfied with every aspect. The length was ideal and all loose ends were tied up, only leaving the faintest elements to the imagination, leaving an endless amount of possibilities for Anna’s character in the future.

I’m not typically the one to re-read books, but I can see myself picking this one up again in the future. It’d be so interesting to dive back in now that I know the ending so I could revel in my newfound dramatic irony. This book is for anyone and everyone. If you can read, you should go pick up The Woman in the Window. After you’re done reading it, give it to your friend so they can read it too. And then give it to everyone in your family, and your co-worker as well, and maybe your dog while you’re at it. I promise none of you will regret investing yourself into Anna’s story.  

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Tin Man: Book Review

Tin Man by Sarah Winman published in 2017.

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“This is almost a love story.

Ellis and Michael are twelve when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more. But then we fast forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question, what happened in the years between?”

I thought this book was going to be a quick read, but it pulled me in for longer than I expected.

Tin Man is divided into two parts, first from the point of view of Ellis, a lonely man living in Oxford trying to adjust to being secluded in his life as a mechanic, even though he’d rather be drawing. He’s used to being around his wife Annie and his best friend Michael, the two people he’s been intimately acquainted with for the better part of his life. Yet when they are both taken from his presence, he is left wandering around, aimlessly reminiscing of better times with the two of them, more specifically Michael. The other part of the book focuses on Michael after he leaves Oxford, experiencing similar emotions as Ellis. This novel explores themes of loneliness, sexuality and unconditional love.

On the cover there’s an excerpt from a review by Matt Haig that says this book, “Breaks your heart and warms it all at once,” and he nailed it on the head. Winman tugged on my heartstrings like they were rubber bands, stretching them to their furthest capabilities. Similar to life, there were bright and optimistic moments that were paired with borderline depressing content. The balance of mood was refreshing and created a sparkling narrative, despite the heavy topics of homophobia and the AIDs epidemic. The style of writing is quite cozy. There was a classic storytelling essence that brought me closer to the characters and made me feel like I knew them all personally.

On the topic of the characters, I enjoyed all of them very much. They were all very likeable, such as Ellis’s stepmother, Carol, the figure of his father’s adultery. As a reader, I wanted to hate her since she was placed in the story as the homewrecker, yet her demeanour was so kind and soft that she ended up being one of my favourite characters. Her relationship with Ellis’s father was the definition of opposites attract since she was soft and maternal and he was harsh and hyper-masculine. Both these characters had the potential to be unpleasant, yet Winman presented them with such redeeming qualities that I couldn’t hate them if I tried. Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t necessarily classify the characters as likeable, more so just very realistic, which is very refreshing.

There were some touchy subjects that were covered, such as sexuality and the AIDs epidemic that I mentioned above. Ellis and Michael loved each other very immensely and explored each other’s body in great detail over their several years of friendship. Michael is more certain in his sexuality while Ellis was simply exploring the realms of love. The love they have for each other was beautiful and inspiring, based more on pure adoration and not labels. That’s probably the one aspect I enjoyed most about Tin Man—the lack of societal labels. I don’t think the words “gay” or “bisexual” were mentioned once, and the actual acts were described with an aura of nonchalance; no need to overcomplicate the simplistic feelings that are felt There are several lines that describe it better than I ever could, saying,

“A place where we didn’t discuss who we are or what we were…”

And

“We love who we love, don’t we?”

Now I’ve gone on and on about everything I liked about this book, it’s time to mention some things that irked me. The biggest complaint I have is the lack of quotation marks. As I said in a past review of mine (The Separation), I do not like the absence of quotation marks at all. It’s a creative decision made by the writer that I’m sure she has her reasons for, but it is definitely not my style. I find it confusing and gratuitous, only overcomplicating what would an easy dialogue exchange between characters. Definitely, an initial turn-off when I first opened the book.

I also found the timeline to be somewhat confusing, since most of the moments in Ellis’s part are memories of the past, and Michael’s part is mainly done in current time. It jumps back and forth from 1996 to 1989 to other unspecified years and I grow more and more perplexed at what’s going on. I often times had to retrace my words to figure out when an event was happening. Near the very end, the timeline began to be more stable and all the loose ends came together, perfectly wrapped up with an exact copy of the paragraph that opened up the book. I’m thankful for this since it somewhat redeemed the majority of the disorganized timeline.

Overall this book impressed and disappointed me in different ways. There were aspects that I loved but also some small details that I didn’t care for at all. The first thing I mentioned was that this wasn’t the fast read that I thought it was going to be, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. It dragged on during Michael’s part (which is especially heartbreaking since I liked his character very much) and I found it difficult to get through. So if you’re looking for an intriguing and intricate (sometimes maybe too intricate) book and you don’t mind the absence of quotation marks, it may be worth your time to look into Tin Man.

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Blood Water Paint: Book Review

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough published in 2018.

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“Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint. She chose paint. By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.”

This was the first book that Goodreads recommended to me. So hey, thanks to Goodreads for the good read.

This is also the first book I’ve read that is based on a real person, this individual specifically being Artemisia Gentileschi, a young female painter in early 1600’s Rome. Currently she is considered one of best Baroque artists of her time, yet of course, due to her being a woman, this was not the case when she was alive. The reader follows Artemisia struggle at the hands of her father putting his name on her work, but her situation becomes ever direr when Agostino Tassi enters her life and rapes her in her own studio. She is then faced with a difficult decision; keep her head down and avoid stirring up trouble or fight for justice. She keeps the memory of her late mother alive by reminiscing about the stories she told her as a child of strong biblical women, specifically Susanna and Judith. These women are metaphorically by her side throughout the entire trial. Written entirely in verse, Blood Water Paint is an intense look into early feminism, Baroque art, and tales of powerful women.

This novel was much more unique than I thought it would be. I’ve honestly never read anything like this, and I mean that in a good way. Like I mentioned above, this was written mainly in verse. It’s very abstract and outlandish at some moments, to the point where some parts might be demanding for the average reader to grasp. Normally I can read while listening to music, but I had to put every ounce of attention into McCullough’s words. This is not a damning quality though, because if you do intensely focus on the words, they are that much more impactful and it leads to an overall a clear story to follow. The whole choice of writing in verse was very intriguing—perhaps a poetic writing style for a tragically poetic life?

The only parts that were not in verse were the stories of Susanna and Judith. Both originated from the biblical tales and were popular inspiration for painters at the time. In the case of Artemisia, they were stories told to her by her mother as a small girl, and models of how forceful females looked. I particularly liked how McCullough wrote it as if Artemisia’s mother was personally telling us these stories. It created a very cozy and intimate atmosphere in what was a very cold and uncomfortable plot.

The storyline was legitimately enthralling at each twist and turn. Artemisia’s narrative was heartbreaking each step of the way, from her internal and external grapple with artistic equality to her mother’s early death, leaving her alone in a male-dominated society. One of the lines that really spoke to me was when Artemisia was reminiscing about when her mother died,

“I groped

without a mother

to find a source

for the blood

but the only wound was

my severed heart”

This is such a powerful statement that so many people can easily relate too. It’s such a creative way to express how devastated by losing a loved one, and it left such a hole in my heart.

Now I must talk about one of the main themes that were ever so clearly discussed in this book—feminism. It was interesting witnessing the early 17th century from the point of view of a woman, particularly a female artist. We saw how many aspects of her life were oppressed, such as being expected to take care of all the men, not receive credit for her work, and most compelling is how the different perspectives affected their art. Simply put, men cannot portray women (strong women to be exact) accurately in their artworks. They can’t seem to wrap their minds around the fact that woman can be less than delicate perfect figures there to bring pleasure to their eyes and other parts. The idea that women can get messy and violent and basically have essential emotions does not occur to them. Yet this occurred to Artemisia, because she lived it, alongside millions of other girls before, during, and after her lifetime.

Let’s compare three different artists work on a similar subject; Judith Beheading Holofernes, a topic thoroughly mentioned in the novel. First, we have Orazio Gentileschi’s (Artemisia’s father) piece. It shows both women with somewhat distressed looks on their face, holding a perfectly amputated head in a basket. Then, Caravaggio’s piece, showing the action to be a bit more violent. Yet finally, there is Artemisia’s piece, which sketches both Judith and her handmaiden joining the act of violence, clearly fighting back a large, powerful man. Because if there’s anything that frightens a man more than a strong woman taking down a powerful man, it’s two strong women. The portrait also has considerable more blood, the image of a woman that men are so afraid of—crudeness.

I’ve never looked at art like this, and I’m honestly probably going to be affected by this every time I enter an art gallery from now on.

I think this is a book every young woman should read, to become more assured of themselves as woman and understand that their place in this world is bigger than they may have imagined. It’s also very educational and inspired me to do my own research on Baroque art. It’s altogether empowering yet crushing at the same time. It makes one realize that women are indeed capable of breaking the glass ceiling, though even though own current society has made many strides for gender equality, the glass is simply cracked at the moment, not broken.

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Girls Burn Brighter: Book Review

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao published in 2018.

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“When Poornima first meets Savitha, she feels something she thought she lost for good when her mother died: hope. Poornima’s father hires Savitha to work one of their sari looms, and the two girls are quickly drawn to one another. Savitha is even more impoverished than Poornima, but she is full of passion and energy. She shows Poornima how to find beauty in a bolt of indigo cloth, a bowl of yogurt rice and bananas, the warmth of friendship. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond the arranged marriage her father is desperate to lock down for her. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend again. Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India’s underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls’ perspectives as they face relentless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within them.”

This was a hard book to read, so this is going to be a hard review for me to write.

Girls Burn Brighter follows two young girls living in Indravalli, India. Poornima’s father hires Savitha to help with their weaving business, and they become incredibly close in a short period of time. Savitha is attracted to Poornima’s gentle nature and Poornima admires Savitha’s feisty attitude towards the world. They bond through their love of weaving, pondering of the world, and simply existing as girls in their small village. When Savitha endures a traumatic event at the hands of Poornima’s father, she flees the village without a trace. Poornima is left feeling guilty and heartbroken, and to make it worse she’s soon married off to a man with an abusive family. After undergoing intense mental and physical abuse from her in-laws, she also decides to abandon her life in search of Savitha. She first heads to Vijayawada, and slowly but surely Poornima finds herself lessening the distance between herself and Savitha. Throughout the course of a few years, she works in a brothel that dabbles in human trafficking, and every step she takes is a proactive measure to find her friend. This leads her to find out Savitha is in Seattle. As Savitha is slowly being broken by the men who own her, the memory of Poornima keeps her going, and little does she know that Poornima is coming for her. It’s a story about the hardships women face and the friendships that are created to keep the light alive within themselves.

I need to preface this by saying this book is not for the faint-hearted. I originally wanted to describe it as a major bummer, but that would be an incredible understatement. There are very detailed descriptions of rape, sexual assault, verbal abuse, oil attacks, decapitation. Some of the things that happened to these girls were absolutely brutal to witness, in fact, I had to take some breaks mid-chapter to fully process what I was reading.

Although it was difficult to read at times, I can appreciate the uncut look into the realities of many. As far as I’m aware of, Girls Burn Brighter is not directly based on a true story, but that doesn’t mean this doesn’t happen every day for thousands of girls around the world. As disgusting as it sounds, human trafficking is still an issue, and this book gives the reader a glimpse into the intricate business of buying humans. The description that Rao provides conjured up very raw and gruesome images in my mind, and as uncomfortable as it made me, I respect the necessity of knowing the cruel truths of our modern society.

Having said this, I was so desperate for something good to happen to one of the girls. It was just horrible thing after horrible thing after horrible thing happening to both Savitha and Poornima. The characters are so likeable that I wanted the best for them, and they were definitely getting the opposite treatment. Even when there was a glimmer of hope, it seemed to be quickly extinguished. Yet the characters inner dialogue still remained hopeful, both girls specifically speaking of the special “light” that they see within only girls. Even when the girl’s outer appearance seemed to be dwindling, there was an inner light that stayed alive (this is, I’m assuming, is the reason for the title).

The reason both girls maintained their inner light is due to their ardent friendship, which was depicted very well. As much as they relied on each other, they did not depend on each other. They are both independent women that simply use each other’s energy to keep going. Their interactions were beautifully written, whether they were right next to each other or miles apart.

Now onto one of the most crucial parts of a book—the ending, and to be honest, this one didn’t satisfy me. Without spoiling anything, all I can say is that it was very vague (in fact I don’t think I could spoil it because even I’m not entirely sure what happened). Did the girls finally meet? If so, what happened? Did they just wander back to their old life, and lived happily ever after? I doubt it, but I’ll never be able to know. The last paragraph is extremely ambiguous and could be interpreted in many ways. Normally, I don’t mind an ending that keeps the imagination running wild, but in this case, I really craved a firm ending. The whole book is a buildup to when Savitha and Poornima invisible embrace each other again, or in keeping with the theme of this book, some other darker scenario. Yet it sort of fizzles out into nothing, and I was very disappointed, to say the least. As a reader, it was somewhat exhausting to go through all the trials and tribulations and receive no payment for it.

Girls Burn Brighter as a whole is unapologetically harsh, yet has a reserved gentle side saved for those who power through the darkness. Kind of like life in general, I guess. Rao’s style of writing was smooth enough to clearly follow. Yet I wasn’t as thrilled with this novel as I thought I’d be from the synopsis I had read. So if you plan on reading this in the future, you must be prepared for intensely described scenes of disturbing acts and an ending that might have you scratching your head in confusion. Every single trigger warning should be plastered on the cover of this novel.

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What Should Be Wild: Book Review

What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine published in 2018.

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“Cursed. Maisie Cothay has never known the feel of human flesh: born with the power to kill or resurrect at her slightest touch, she has spent her childhood sequestered in her family’s manor at the edge of a mysterious forest. Maisie’s father, an anthropologist who sees her as more experiment than daughter, has warned Maisie not to venture into the wood. Locals talk of men disappearing within, emerging with addled minds and strange stories. What he does not tell Maisie is that for over a millennium her female ancestors have also vanished into the wood, never to emerge—for she is descended from a long line of cursed women. But one day Maisie’s father disappears, and Maisie must venture beyond the walls of her carefully constructed life to find him. Away from her home and the wood for the very first time, she encounters a strange world filled with wonder and deception. Yet the further she strays, the more the wood calls her home.”

I don’t typically read fantasy novels, so I took a chance with one, and I believe it paid off.

In What Should Be Wild the reader follows a sixteen-year-old girl named Maisie who lives on the Urizon property with her father Peter. She carries the legacy of the Blakely family, made up of women who had gone missing in the forest outside of the same house she lives in. In fact, six of the Blakely women are trapped in a neighbouring dimension of the same forest around Maisie. Oh yeah, did I also mention that any living thing Maisie touches dies, and any dead thing she touches is resurrected? That’s why her father kept her sequestered in the house her whole life, so when Peter goes missing, she and a young boy she barely knows goes out looking for him. What could go wrong? Well, a man might kidnap her and try and drain her of all her blood so he can open the gate to the other world in the forest, that’s what could go wrong. Throughout this journey, Maisie grows as a young woman and gains new experiences that she was denied her whole life.

Such an important aspect of a book is the opening line—it grabs the reader’s attention and tempts them deeper into the story. The first line of this book does just that when it states,

“They grew me inside my mother, which was unusual, because she was dead.”

This sentence doesn’t only shock the reader, but slightly confuses them as well. Yet it’s the perfect quantity of confusion, the amount that pushes you to continue and find out more to alleviate this confusion. Actually, most of the book was like this for me, so the first line set a good example of how I felt throughout the entire thing. I’ll talk more about this later.

The narration changes from chapter to chapter, switching from Maisie’s first-person point of view to a third person omniscient view of the women in the woods. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing both perspectives and even more the connection between both worlds. For example, when Maisie brought a dead bird back to life, the women saw the same bird limping around in their forest. This is just one of many of the links between Maisie and her ancestors. These chapters were also very short and sweet, which I loved.

Speaking of the six Blakely women, I appreciated all of their diverse personalities and how their era affected their behaviour. They ranged from a rejected five-year-old children with a large birthmark plastered on the side of her face to a promiscuous woman who shamed her family by sleeping with her brother. Another character that peaked my interest was Peter. Peter, in my opinion, has the perfect structure for a character development. He begins has an indifferent father who views his daughter as more of a case study than kin. Yet as the story progresses we learn that his situation is more complex, with the death of his wife and unexpected child that he was forced to raise by himself. We learn about his immense love for Maisie, and how raising her had actually made him a better person. It all comes together when he makes the ultimate sacrifice that the parent archetype is destined to make. This moment brought actual tears to my eyes.  

When it came to the storyline as a whole, as I mentioned before, I was mainly driven by confusion. The numerous amount of times I shook my head, completely befuddled by everything that was happening was rather exhausting. Now, I will say this might be due to my lack of experience in the fantasy genre; I’m not exactly familiar with the format of it all. But I just had so many questions floating around my brain while in the midst of it all. I’m not saying this is a bad thing since this is what kept me reading; so I could find answers to these questions. And for the most part, these questions were answered near the very end. Yet something that irked me is that the whole concept of the “mystic forest” was still rather vague. I can acknowledge the beauty and significance of the woods holding the darker side of Maisie, which is why she was being drawn towards it. Yet one question still lingered heavy in my mind; Why did Rafe want to enter the woods so desperately?

For the most part, though, everything was explained fairly well and all ends were tied together quite neatly. Everything was connected and simple notions proved to be more symbolic than previously imagined (and you know I love me some symbolism). This is definitely a book that I would enjoy rereading so I could pinpoint the moments that confused me on the first read.

This was a solid fairytale with hints of romance and action. It covers themes of loneliness and hopelessness as well as paints a beautiful coming of age story that anyone can relate to. Fine has a way of stringing words together in a majestic way that almost hypnotizes the reader further into her magnificent world. I was astonished by her ability to conjure up colourful images and witty dialogue, and overall very intrigued by the sinister yet inspiring narrative. I would recommend this book to people who aren’t particularly familiar with fantasy novels as a fine introduction to this genre. (Get it? Fine? Like Julia Fine? Nevermind). So if you’re interested in jumping into a modern fairytale, go pick up a copy of What Should Be Wild.

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June’s Poem of the Month

This is going to be a sad one, so brace yourself with plenty of tissues. I remember first discovering this poem, listening to the writer recite it himself at a poetry slam. By the end of the poem, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. The journey that he takes us on is unbelievably heartbreaking and delivered in such a clever format. He counts down from his current age, 21, to when his mother was pregnant with him, recalling all the major events in his life, most of them revolving around his father. This is one of those poems that left me thinking about it for days, months and even years later. Hopefully, it will have the same effect on you.

21 by Patrick Roche

“21. My father is run over by a car.
He is passed out in the road with a blood alcohol content 4 times the legal limit.
I do not cry.

Four months later,
The nurses lose his pulse, and I wonder whose life flashed before his eyes.
Rewinding VHS tapes
Old home videos

20.

19. I haven’t brought a friend home in four years.

18. My mother sips the word “divorce”.
Her mouth curls at the taste like it burns going down.

17. I start doing homework at Starbucks.
I have more meaningful conversations with the barista
Than with my family

16. I wait for Christmas Eve.
My brother and I usually exchange gifts to one another early
This year, he and my father exchange blows.
My mother doesn’t go to mass.

15. I come up with the theory that my father started drinking again
Because maybe he found out I’m gay.
Like if he could make everything else blurry,
Maybe somehow I’d look straight.
15. My mother cleans up his vomit in the middle of the night
And cooks breakfast in the morning like she hasn’t lost her appetite.

15. I blame myself.

15. My brother blames everyone else.

15. My mother blames the dog.

15. Super Bowl Sunday
My father bursts through the door like an avalanche
Picking up speed and debris as he falls
Banisters, coffee tables, picture frames
Tumbling, stumbling.
I find his AA chip on the kitchen counter.

14. My father’s been sober for 10,
Maybe 11, years?
I just know
We don’t even think about it anymore.

13.

12.

11. Mom tells me Daddy’s “meetings” are for AA.
She asks if I know what that means.
I don’t.
I nod anyway.
10. My parents never drink wine at family gatherings.
All my other aunts and uncles do.
I get distracted by the TV and forget to ask why.

9.

8.

7.

6. I want to be Spider-Man.
Or my dad.
They’re kinda the same.

5.

4.

3. I have a nightmare
The recurring one about Ursula from The Little Mermaid
So I get up
I waddle toward Mommy and Daddy’s room,
Blankie in hand,
I pause.
Daddy’s standing in his underwear
Silhouetted by refrigerator light.
He raises a bottle
To his lips.
2.

1.

0. When my mother was pregnant with me,
I wonder if she hoped,
As so many mothers do,
That her baby boy would grow up to be
Just like
His father.”

I recommend you listen to Roche recite this himself, which can be found here. To find out more about Roche and his work, find him on Twitter or Facebook.