Book Review: we carry the sky by McKayla Robbin

 

I was offered a complimentary copy of We Carry the Sky by McKayla Robbin in exchange for an honest review.

This poetry book is full of small but mighty poems. There are themes, sometimes subtle, sometimes loud, about feminism, abuse, acceptance, body, healing etc. Some of the poems are extremely short, and many do not have titles—this confused me at first, because the titles are also at the end of poems, so I wasn’t always certain which poems were more than one page, since the title was at the end (maybe I’m still confused, and many of these were actually long poems, but it doesn’t matter and sorry for the long ramble on it)—I didn’t even mind my confusion once I got immersed in the words. I enjoyed this collection of poetry, though its different than a lot of other poetry I’ve read, in that many of the poems are very literal, and do not rely on much figurative language, which I was actually pleasantly surprised by in parts (because I’ve been told that about my own work and it is almost reassuring to see someone else do this). There were many good poems, and several great. One of my favs from We Carry the Sky:

since we last spoke

i have threaded my sorrow

into a sweater

and i am learning, i think,

to wear it

without letting it break me

but I also loved lines such as:

dancing is how your soul remembers to love your body

and

forget everything you learned before

your body is not a war

it is a celebration

Some of these poems are haunting, some are gentle. Since reading this book, I have added to the poetry books already on my shelves to include another five titles, and I have to say, this is one of my favorites of the new books. I’m really glad the author sent me this book to review (and I’m sorry I forgot to ask her to sign it! boo).

4 stars for a collection of poetry that has something to say.

 

Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

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One day at work I was walking past a cart of new BCD (Books on CD) and saw Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’d read Eat, Pray, Love probably around the time it came out and became a huge Bestseller, and I also read The Signature of All Things. Since I’d enjoyed both of those books (Eat, Pray, Love more so than the other) and I loved the description of Big Magic, I picked it up right away, and listened to it every day during my commute until it was through. Being only 4 discs long, and taking just 5 hours of time, it was a fast listen!

Big Magic was eye-opening, brilliant at times, and very timely for me. As many of you know I’ve been having a wonderful creative surge the last couple of months, and I really feel in love with the art of writing. In Big Magic, Gilbert talks about living a creative life. She talks about how to be playful, joyful, how to not take yourself or your art so seriously, about how to put yourself and your words (or other art forms) out into the world, how to take risks, how to love what you do. One of my favorite things she said was that the universe hides jewels inside each of us. It is our job to unearth those jewels.

Another thing that stuck out was the idea that we should be putting our books, stories, and our work out there. That it does nobody any good to have it lying around hidden forever. A perpetual fear I have is of leaving this world behind with a computer full of things that nobody will ever read. I’m working harder to get things submitted traditionally, and published indie, in part because of this. We, as writers, or creators, can get so stuck on perfection, or fear, that we miss opportunities, and we deprive others of our joy. It doesn’t mean you have to send out subpar stuff, but let’s face it—the work will NEVER be published if you’re waiting for perfection. There will always be something to fix, or something you wish you’d done differently. Get proofreaders, find beta readers, edit, revise, and then for goodness sake, get out of your own way and let it be born. Are there things in my stories that even now make me cringe? Yes. But, a slightly imperfect novel is better than no novel at all, in Gilbert’s opinion, and now mine as well. You can, and should, always try to improve yourself, and your work. However, do not mistake improvement for perfection.

The most fascinating part of Big Magic, besides listening to Gilbert talk about her own process and evolution of success, was the idea that IDEAS just want to be made manifest. That they are actually things with energy, with will, and that if you choose not to make a project, it will move on to someone else. The part where she talks about how her Amazon jungle novel fell out of her head into her friend’s actually gave me chills. So neat. Ideas are looking for partners to collaborate with. They will find creators. Sometimes you will want the Idea that comes, and other times, it may not be the best fit. Gilbert suggests being polite, gracious, and even thanking your Ideas aloud, whether you accept their proposition or not. I love this idea. In fact, I’ve started doing it in my own life. “Thank you, for coming to me. Please, stick around for a while until I get this story figured out. I really appreciate it.”

If you’re looking for a quick read or listen, give Big Magic a try. Gilbert has a pleasant voice if you’re going with audiobook, and I think there would be something in there for everyone, writers or otherwise. This book got me thinking, it made me feel, and more than once, it made me say YES! 5 stars for this book. Check it out here.

 

 

On Books and Reading

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If I were to tell you I love to read, it probably wouldn’t come as much of a shock. After all, I’d wager many (most?) writers are also readers. I’d guess a lot of us were inspired to write because we’ve felt a deep love for books, because we felt what they were keenly, because we wanted to try to do the same for a reader enjoying our own work. That is at least true for me, anyway.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading, and loving it. I certainly recall a fondness books before I had any interest in writing them. As a girl, I enjoyed inventing stories about people, but I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer, really, that I was a writer, until I was 23. I knew I was a reader, and an eager one at that, many, many years prior. In elementary school I remember walking through the hallway of school with my nose in a book, because I just had to finish that chapter, my trusted friend steering me through the passing students by the elbow (Thanks, Nicole!). In high school, instead of studying or sleeping, I would stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning reading a whole book a night. Books were a release for me, and an escape, the same, and yet different, than writing.

You will never hear me claim to be a great reader. I am a little embarrassed to admit I don’t read widely. I’ve only read a handful of the classics, and hardly any of the really popular books on bestseller lists. This isn’t because I’m snobby about my reading, simply that I would rather re-read a favorite any day. I suppose I’m the opposite of adventurous when it comes to reading. I do read new books, but it’s the old favorites that hold a special place in my heart. I don’t care how nerdy that makes me sound! If I love a book, as in deep-down in my bones, love it so much I would get a tattoo in its honor (been there, done that, true story) I will read it five, ten, twenty, fifty, even a hundred times. Yes, I think I’ve actually read some of them that often. Some people find that boring. My husband teases me. “How can you read the same book again? Don’t you know what happens?!” And to him I answer, with loving snark, “I see you’re enjoying cheesecake again. I thought you already had that once? Don’t you know how it tastes?”

Re-reading a favorite book is like visiting with an old friend. It’s cool if that’s not how you see it, but I find it comforting. No matter how many times I’ve read my favorites, something still surprises me each time. Reading my favorite books from years ago now, through the eyes of a writer on top of being a reader, well, that’s even more special. I love falling back in love with the books I so admired as a child.

As a writer, I find myself envious of the talent these authors have, of the emotions they can invoke in me after I’ve read their words so many times I have whole passages memorized. I find myself trying harder to be just a fraction as good as they are. To someday hope someone will feel that way about what I write. And I appreciate my books more than ever now, because these days I just can’t devote the time to reading that I used to. I don’t know any mother of three who would willingly stay awake until 2am when she didn’t have to! Alas, my darling books get dropped lower on the list these days. I can’t read a whole book a night anymore. So no, I don’t read widely, or greatly, or quickly these days. But, I read passionately. I would not be me without the words that have shaped me, from my father’s poetry, to Harry Potter, to Pride & Prejudice, to historical romances, to fairytales, to the Little House books, to my favorite novel ever, Beauty by Robin McKinley. All of these, my old pals, inspired me then, inspire me now. And that’s only naming a few. I have many, many more book friends. (You can find out more in my ever-expanding Library page in the menu.)

Now, I’ve got a stack of books on my nightstand. Fourteen of them, plus a Kindle, to be exact. And that’s just on the top shelf. And yes, I counted. Depending on my mood any one of these might make it into my hands tonight, and be the last thing on my mind before I fall asleep. It’s exciting, I think, not knowing which one I’ll choose yet. And I can’t help but think how very fortunate I am that there are just so many there, right at my fingertips. If I were to walk out to my living room, there’d be a whole bookcase full. And if I waited till I got to work- at a public library- well, it’s practically a whole universe of possibility.

We are so very lucky, us readers, to love books like we do.

Tell me, are you a book re-reader, or no? If yes, which are your tried and true favorites?