Review: The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 2.44.37 PM“Ceylon, off the coast of India. The 1920s. A tea plantation.”

So begins the description of The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies. Also known as: hook, line, and sinker.

I was not only intrigued by the setting of this book but also the hope of learning more about tea. (It is, after all, my favorite form of caffeination—second only to the latte.) Everything from the time period to the setting and the promise of tea-making made me itch with anticipation for how Jefferies’ plot would begin, manifest, and unfurl.

However, what began as intrigue and hopeful interest quickly turned into a combination of both annoyance and applause for Gwendolyn, the namesake’s “tea planter’s wife.” My conflict was real, and the book itself an amalgam of proper withholding and naïveté.

For more on The Tea Planter’s Wife, published by Broadway Books in 2015, continue… 

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Anticipating: The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 8.21.38 PMI am excited to say that a copy of The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne is on its way to my home. Thanks to Blogging for Books, I will receive a free copy in exchange for a review, and here I need to express my utmost anticipation. (*Insert little kid squeal: EEEEEE.*)

Emily May, a book reviewer I obsessively follow via Goodreads, praised the book very highly, as have many countless others. (Ok, so actually there are something like 384 reviews at time of posting, but whatever.) It was also available in Book of the Month’s August box, but I opted for Gin Phillips’ Fierce Kingdom. Oops.

Here, I’d like to share Emily’s review to fully convey my excitement. (For more about her, please visit her site: The Book Geek.)

Emily’s Review:

Maybe there were no villains in my mother’s story at all. Just men and women, trying to do their best by each other. And failing.

This book. THIS BOOK. I cannot remember the last time I became so thoroughly immersed in a story, fell so deeply in love with the characters, and had my heart so fully ripped out. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a masterpiece. Most people will know Boyne from his hard-hitting children’s book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but this book is something else entirely.

For more of Emily’s review—and the reason behind my giggly excitement—continue. 

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Review: Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 9.23.06 AM“Just sitting there, enduring the dull, antiquated ritual of a transitional high school graduation, hurts—it feels like there are flames beneath me heating up the metal chair I’m seated on, like my stupid square cardboard hat is full of fire ants, like this whole fucking over-privileged town is slowly grinding away my eye balls with sandpaper. But then I realize that I’m free if I want to be—no one has chained me to this folding chair” (p. 258).

If you’ve ever had days where you feel like no one gets you—family, friends, your entire town—you might be Nanette O’Hare. If you’ve ever had days where it physically makes you itch to sit through “regular life” and not be able to escape it, you might be Nanette O’Hare. If you’ve ever faked your way through anything from a day of school to a relationship with someone “you’re expected to be with,” you might be Nanette O’Hare.

I am Nanette O’Hare.

For more on Matthew Quick’s Every Exquisite Thing, published by Little, Brown Books in May of 2016, continue. 

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Review: Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 8.35.20 AMI want to reread this book probably once a year for the rest of my life. There are few books that have influenced my perspective in the way that this has*, but I hope to find at least ten more before I reach self-actualization (ha, ha, that’s a joke!). But truly, this book is a diamond among shards of coal, and I really do want to buy one for everyone with whom I am friends—and fourteen apiece for my enemies.

OK, so I don’t have enemies, but if I did they’d totally get fourteen. Maybe fifteen, if I’m feeling generous.

For more on Broken Open, originally published by Random House in 2004, continue.

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Reflection: Mid-life Lessons

cat-2517583_1920I’m entering  a new decade here soon, and I’d like to document what I’ve learned. I’m by no means an absolutist, but these truisms have carried me into better years of mental health, stable and sustained friendships, and positive community involvement.

They also fit neatly into a numbered list of ten, so I’m getting that “organization” thing down. (Marie Kondo WHO?! I got this!)

In true 2017 fashion, I thought I’d tell the internet about my lessons. As one does.

If you’re okay with keyboard evangelizing, by all means, please continue… 

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Review: Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 8.48.28 PMI happenstanced across this collection at my local library (which isn’t exactly up-to-date in the poetry section) and I was happily blown away by Limón’s poetry.

Sectioned into four parts, her poetry ranges from metaphysical reflections considering an entirely alternate life (“Every time I’m in an airport, / I think I should drastically / change my life,” from The Problem with Travel) to moving cross-country from hyper-urbanality to mundane Midwestern Kentucky, which later is learned to aid in a parent’s passing away.

Her poetry is accessible and honest, striking out beyond the pages in new criticism fashion: her words may mean one thing to her as an author and something entirely separate to me, another soul, as a reader. Regardless of life’s trials, a true master poet connects with readers in multiple poems on multiple levels at the intersection of our experiences in humanity. Limón is certainly a master poet.

For more on Bright Dead Things, published by Milkweed Editions in 2015, continue. 

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Review: American Fire by Monica Hesse

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 9.18.28 PMThere were buildings that burned down. Some of the buildings that burned down had meant something to people, and their burning was a tragedy. Some of the buildings that burned down were ugly and old. Nobody knew who they even belonged to and why they were still there. Those buildings weren’t missed. A normal person wouldn’t have burned them down, but the fact that [someone] did –well, that wasn’t the worst thing in the world, either. And the people who really made the county, the firefighters and teachers and librarians and police officers, they were all still there. That mattered. (Pg. 232)

In November of 2012, a string of fires started in rural Accomack County, Virginia. It was one, then it was six, then it was over fifty fires. Far too many to be coincidently or naturally occurring. Area investigators were stumped. The strip of Accomack County coastline where the fires took place was a community of under five hundred people. Who could possibly be committing so many crimes of arson in such a tight knit community?

After countless hours of volunteer fire fighting work, police investigations, and amateur arson hunting, the perpetuators were finally caught. But what was uncovered was much more than many anticipated. It all boiled down to one question: What would one really do for love?

For more on American Fire, published by Liveright Publishing Corp. (division of W.W. Norton) in July 2017, continue… 

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Review: After the Dam by Amy Hassinger

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 8.54.52 AMParenthood is defined by many as the genesis for the best years of their lives. Hashtags and aphorisms abound on Father’s and Mother’s Day that the day one became a parent is the “best day of their lives.”

To be fair, for many becoming a parent truly is the best day of their lives. A day for love, loyalty, sacrifice, and lifelong selflessness.

For others, it begins an era of self-realization in which the boundaries feel metallic, a permanent stifling. All the previous positive feelings still apply, but they’re wrapped in the metamorphosis of self to servant. A death of self.

Amy Hassinger’s After the Dam explores not only this commonly overlooked contrast, but also the personal paradigmatic elitism all have about their views on the world. All believe their views are right—-justified—-and others are usually wrong somehow. Other views are not bad, per se, but they’re misguided, politely mistaken. Every single one of us does this, and while it is perfectly normal (predictable, probably) it can often lead to severe misunderstanding and disappointment.

And so begins the deterioration of the dam.

For more on After the Dam, published by Red Hen Press in paperback, September 2016, please continue.

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Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 9.14.52 PMmost importantly love
like it’s the only thing you know how
at the end of the day all this
means nothing
this page
where you’re sitting
your degree
your job
the money
nothing even matters
except love and human connection
who you loved
and how deeply you loved them
how you touched the people around you
and how much you gave them

For more on Kaur’s Milk and Honey poetry collection, published in 2015 by Andrews McMeel, continue. 

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The Teacher’s Reasons Why

education-614155_1920It’s May. This time of year is both ecstatic joy and utter misery, somehow a simultaneous experience we English teachers chalk up to the definition of “paradox.”

This year is the end of my eighth in education, most of which has been an amalgam of high school and community college teaching.

In short, I’m tired. In length, I wonder how anyone is expected to run this race longer than ten years. Let me explain.

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