264th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 264th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Philip Levine; we’re doing something different — a video reading from Morgan Williams:

The poem:

What Work Is

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to   
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,   
just because you don’t know what work is.

What do you think?

The Program by Suzanne Young

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 405 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Program by Suzanne Young, which was our book club selection for July, is a young adult novel in which young people are sent away to The Program if they show signs of suicidal thoughts before committing the act, and in this world, one can never be too careful because suicide is contagious.  At least that’s what the government would have parents and their teens believe.  Every teen lives under a microscope, and the pressure can be unbelievably intense for those who are friends or, especially, related to someone who has committed suicide.  Sloane Barstow is just one teen of many, but her brother committed suicide so she bottles up as much of her anguish and pain as she can so that her parents don’t think she’s suicidal too.  Her only comfort is in the arms of her friend, and her brother’s, James Murphy — a rough and tumble kind of guy who has mommy issues and doesn’t much like school or his dad.

“Teen suicide was declared a national epidemic — killing one in three teens — nearly four years ago.  It always existed before that, but seemingly overnight handfuls of my peers were jumping off buildings, slitting their wrists — most without any known reason.  Strangely enough, the rate of incidence among adults stayed about the same, adding to the mystery.”  (page 9)

The novel is told in first person point-of-view, so if Sloane doesn’t know the reasons or the actions behind the scenes, neither does the reader.  This leaves the reader and Sloane in the dark, especially when she begins to lose parts of herself.  Her relationship with James is hot and cold, mostly because James has a hard time being vulnerable, but her relationship with her parents is even harsher, with her moods constantly negative toward them and them trying to smother her as if that will protect her from getting sick.  There are a great number of issues to discuss, particularly about what it means to be us — do our memories make us who we are or is it something more? Should the government force teens into treatment for suicidal symptoms and their grief over lost loved ones or should they allow them to handle their own emotions?  Is there some other vast government conspiracy at work?

Young’s portrayal of rebellious teens is spot on in her portrayal of Sloane and James, but there is question that builds in the reader’s mind about whether Sloane and James are in love or merely thrown together by mutual loss.  While there are touching moment between the two and it does seem to be love, there relationship does not evolve beyond the mutual lust and desire for one another, and in many ways, it is based on mutual comfort.  Despite the questions about whether The Program is increasing thoughts of suicide among teens that want to avoid it, at its heart this novel is a love story in a dystopian world where kids have little control of their lives, except to run away.  The parents are not as hands on as one would presume them to be in a world where suicide is an epidemic, there is no real explanation of who runs the program or of why the program is so prevalent other than its 100% cure rate, and the last part of the book seems like it was thrown together to explain a subordinate character’s actions in The Program and outside of it.

The Program by Suzanne Young is a fast-paced romance for young adults that raises a number of questions for book clubs to discuss, and it is enjoyable.  For readers looking for a little more about the setting and The Program or other cures that could have been tried, etc., you’ll be left wondering.  The end opens more doors than closes, and its possible that there could be a sequel in the works.  Sloane and James are strong and rebellious, but even they are not immune from the disease or its cure.  Is it better to forget the past and move forward, or should you reclaim as many of your memories as you can?  That’s still the question.

About the Author:

Originally from New York, Suzanne Young moved to Arizona to pursue her dream of not freezing to death. She currently resides in Tempe, where she teaches high school English. When not writing obsessively, Suzanne can be found searching her own tragic memories for inspiration.

Suzanne is the author of several books for teens, including THE PROGRAM, A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL, and A WANT SO WICKED.  Visit her on Facebook, her blog, and Twitter.


What the Book Club Thought:

Most members agreed that the book was an easy read, while one wanted more hope at the beginning at least for the reader.  Others thought that they were in the situation with Sloane (probably due to the first person point of view) and could understand how a teen girl would be so obsessed with a boy and only think about surviving, rather than what her future could be like once she hit 18.  At some length the book club talked about the lack of hope in the beginning, which some said was intentional.  Another aspect of the book that people discussed at length was Sloane’s seeming acceptance of the pills given to her by the psychiatrist, rather than fighting to keep her memories as she said she would early on.  The underground aspect of the book that shows up later in the book was examined as a possible conspiracy as well as The Program itself.  However, there is another book to this series, so we’re waiting to see what that brings (at least some of us are).  In terms of whether members would take the pill to bring back all of their memories, some said they would without hesitation, while others said they would think about it and one said he probably wouldn’t.  When asked about whether they would place their own kid in the program, a few said that they would not immediately do so, seeking out alternative means and others suggesting that they would immediately do so.

45th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.


Pies & Peril by Janel Gradowski

Source: Janel Gradowski, the author
ebook, 192 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

Pies & Peril: A Culinary Competition Mystery by Janel Gradowski is punchy and fun, a perfect read for kicking back on a rainy day or on the beach during the summer.  While “beach read” if often a looked down on term, these are the kinds of books readers crave when they want pure entertainment and to enjoy characters and their stories.  Gradowski’s characters are not like those in typical cozy mysteries; they have good heads on their shoulders, are professional, and are not throwing themselves in harm’s way without thinking things through first.  Amy Ridley is no dumb blonde. She’s focused to win every culinary baking contest she enters, but when things go awry for her former friend and now baking nemesis, Mandy Jo, she takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of her death.

“The physical side effects of becoming a triple champion made her feel like she had been caught in a stampede of tap dancers from Ms. Carrie’s Dance Academy.” (ARC)

“Okay.  Dirty dishes didn’t talk, but she couldn’t stand to see them sitting there, like batter coated chore devils perched on her shoulder.” (ARC)

Amy is spunky and determined to uncover the truth, but she’s also aware that there should be boundaries to her tenacious search for a killer.  She’s lurking in corners to eavesdrop and running into clues, but she’s also wise enough to know that she should be careful and scared of the killer who is writing her threatening notes.  Her friend Carla is a doll, and readers will enjoy their banter as they go over some of Amy’s theories about the murder and her even more outrageous theories behind the murder.  Gradowski’s style is filled with humor and characterization; readers will get to know these characters in such a short period of time, it will feel like they are friends known for much longer.  The author has a way of packing in a lot of background and characterization in a small space, making it easier to flow with the relationships and the story as it unfolds.

“… The Cookbook Nook.  Not a single auto repair or vampire book could be found on the shelves.  Just cookbooks.  Glorious, fascinating cookbooks.” (ARC)

Pies & Peril: A Culinary Competition Mystery by Janel Gradowski will have readers’ mouths watering, and it includes recipes at the end to keep those taste buds dreaming.  Cozy mysteries may drive some readers crazy for their dopey heroines that carry their infants into dangerous situations or just rush headlong into places they shouldn’t as they investigate mysteries, but Gradowski has found the perfect balance between the cozy mystery formula and strong heroines that leave the tough stuff up to the cops.

About the Author:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten­-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.  Check her Website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.  Check out her books.

Other books by this author, reviewed here:


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