Sound Fury by Mark Levine

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Sound Fury by Mark Levine assaults the reader, bombarding them with broken words and lines at unexpected times, sounds that render readers concussed in many ways. “There go another million minutes/In the history of the misery/” (pg. 62-4, “‘strange shadows on you tend'”) His poems tackle a wide range of subjects from identity to ecological destruction, but sometimes the poems are so focused on artistry that the themes are muddled and obscured.

Despite these drawbacks, the collection does provide readers with vignettes of sorrow and insanity. Like in “Lark” where a storm causes significant damage, yet the narrator and the family slept through it.

Lark (pg. 1)

Storm of storms: We slept through it
In golden stupor. True, it
Did its damage before it withdrew. It
Emptied our orchard of unharvested fruit
Along with a fruit-picking crew it
Hurled hither and yon, bushels askew; it
Did not apologize, either, though a few it-
Ty bitty groans slipped through it-
S pores, a sorrowful fugue.

In “Thing and All,” the narrator laments the anonymity and desire for fame or being known, but by the end “It might feel like something/To feel something capturing you/In milled mirroring lenses/As you are and would be/But that self-love/Is nostalgia.”(pg. 18) Here, there is a sense that even self-love is an illusion in this chaotic world.

Levine seems to take “Delight in Disorder,” of course a poem in the collection. And his poem “‘strange shadows on you tend,'” reminds us of the fleeting nature of this chaos we try to make sense of with our assaulted senses: “It is not that he was never here/Or that we were never here./It’s just, oh just that he and we/Have lost a way/Together.” Sound Fury by Mark Levine has moments of clear lucidity and absolute chaos, what we take from the collection is all that we’ve carried with us in this wild world.

Rating: Tercet

About the Poet:

Mark Levine is author of Debt, among others. He is professor of poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and is editor of the Kuhl House Poets series for the University of Iowa Press. Levine lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 320 pgs.
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Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto, was my work’s book club pick for March, is a coming of age story that takes a long trip off the rails of normal living. Meddelin Chan is an Indo-Chinese-American whose mother and aunties who can be a little stifling and over-bearing. This leaves her little room to be herself until she gets to live on a college campus and she meets the man of her dreams, Nathan.

SPOILER ALERT: Okay, Nathan would be the man of anyone’s dreams because honestly, he loves her no matter who she’s killed or what kind of trouble she gets into. That’s amazing to me. END SPOILER

When she returns from school after making a monumental life decision with little thought other than about a family curse and her familial obligations, the wedding business gets into full swing with her mother as a florist, her aunts as entertainment, makeup, and baker, and herself as the photographer. They are successful at this line of work, but Meddy is still not dating (ignore that 3 yr. relationship in college that her family knew nothing about).

This is where things go awry for Meddy. Her blind date is a horror show and the rest of the book from here is so over-the-top and ridiculous, it makes you want to cry with laughter. It’s definitely a comedy and not a serious murder mystery.

“I’m stuck in a nightmare. I know it. Maybe I got a concussion from the accident. Maybe I’m actually in a coma, and my coma-brain is coming up with this weird-ass scenario, because there is no way I’m actually sitting here, in the kitchen, watching my oldest aunties eat a mango and Ma and Fourth Aunt argue while Jake lies cooling in the trunk of my car.” (pg. 62)

The narrative style makes this relatable because Meddy is doing the talking and giving us all the ins-and-outs along the way, and the plot is just hilarious misstep after hilarious misstep. What bothered me and kept me from giving it a Quatrain rating was that it went a little too far with the over-the-top plotting. It was no longer believable to me in how the murder was resolved and wrapped up. Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto is a fun ride, and there happens to be a sequel. It’s definitely a book that will lighten your spirits even if there is a death involved.

RATING: Tercet and a half.

About the Author:

Jesse Q Sutanto grew up shuttling back and forth between Jakarta and Singapore and sees both cities as her homes. She has a Masters degree from Oxford University, though she has yet to figure out a way of saying that without sounding obnoxious. She is currently living back in Jakarta on the same street as her parents and about seven hundred meddlesome aunties. When she’s not tearing out her hair over her latest WIP, she spends her time baking and playing FPS games. Oh, and also being a mom to her two kids.

Twice in a Lifetime by Melissa Baron (audio)

Source: Borrowed
Hoopla, 9+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Twice in a Lifetime by Melissa Baron, narrated by Megan Tusing, is a time-travel romance and my 3rd book for the 12 books 12 friends reading challenge.

***Those who have severe anxiety, a recent death in the family, or have suicidal thoughts should be warned about reading this book.***

Isla Abbott has severe anxiety and lost her mother, causing her to leave Chicago for just outside St. Louis. As a graphic designer, she starts again and works mostly remote, but soon she starts getting texts from a different timeline. Ewan Park enters her life in the most unusual way, but there is an undeniable connect, even as she remains awkward and anxiety-ridden.

Isla is tough to handle at times as a reader because you hear her inner thoughts, but that’s what’s so beautiful about Baron’s characterization. She understands anxiety and the incessant voice that puts you down, and she understands the overwhelming pressure that anxiety can be.

Ewan and Isla’s relationship is unconventional given the circumstances, but oh so lovely when they connect. Baron’s novel is tragic and emotional, a roller coaster. Twice in a Lifetime by Melissa Baron is a tough book to review, but definitely one that touches on fate and love and will be hard to forget.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Melissa Baron is a copywriter and technical writer from Chicago. She holds a B.A. in English and is a Denver Publishing Institute graduate. She regularly contributes to Book Riot and works as a book staffer at the annual Heartland Fall Forum. In her spare time, she likes to travel with her fiancé and play with their two cats, Denali and Mango. Twice in a Lifetime is her first novel.


Mailbox Monday #726

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Twice in a Lifetime by Melissa Baron, borrowed from Hoopla, the library audio app.

Isla has fled the city for small-town Missouri in the wake of a painful and exhausting year. With her chronic anxiety at a fever pitch, the last thing she expects is to meet a genuine romantic prospect. And she doesn’t. But she does get a text from a man who seems to think he’s her husband. Obviously, a wrong number—except when she points this out, the mystery texter sends back a picture. Of them—on their wedding day.

Isla cautiously starts up a texting relationship with her maybe-hoax, maybe-husband Ewan, who claims to be reaching out from a few years into the future. Ewan knows Isla incredibly well, and seems to love her exactly as she is, which she can hardly fathom. But he’s also grieving, because in the future, he and Isla are no longer together.

Ewan is texting back through time to save her from a fate he is unwilling to share—and all she can do to prevent that fate is to learn to be happy, now, in the body she has, with the mind she has. The only trouble is the steps she takes in that direction might be steps away from a future with Ewan.

On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe, borrowed from Hoopla, the library audio app.

What did you receive?

Spare by Prince Harry (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 15+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Spare by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, who narrates his own memoir, is one man’s struggle with his role in life (one he was born into), the death of his mother (which he avoided grieving for far too many years), and who loves his wife and his family (all of his family). How do you deal with the death of a mother, particularly in such a sensational and horrific way that Princess Diana died? How do you navigate a privileged life as a spare who isn’t exactly expected to carry the royal name into the future? How do you protect your family from a press that is allowed to run free and do as it pleases and is often fueled by petty family jealousies and informants?

No matter what you think about the royal family or how the press works, etc., it is clear that the horrific death of Princess Diana profoundly shaped Prince Harry and how he viewed the British press from the start. He was a young boy when he lost his mother, and reading about how the family reacted and did little to help him adjust and mourn is heartbreaking. The love his mother had for him and his brother also nurtured his love of family and the belief in family loyalty and protection, much to his detriment. He assumed many things about his own family and its priorities. There are many instances where he gives them the benefit of the doubt in how they treated him and his wife, but that benefit of the doubt was clearly misplaced time and time again.

The drawbacks for me were the unexamined privilege he has and didn’t acknowledge, and what seemed to me a glossing over of how the British press and its close relationship with the Royals helped him. Overall, Prince Harry was clearly adrift and in need of direction, which he found in the military despite the obstacles (including the Royal family and his brother). Does he have more self-examination to do? Yes, but don’t we all.

Spare by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, is a page-turner, and definitely an emotional read. It’s a sad look at a young man without enough support from his family. Family here is focused on preserving the monarchy and little else. The relationship between the brothers was not that solid to start with and it is clear that becoming the heir further fractured the relationship between Harry and his brother. If anything, right or wrong, this is a memoir of a broken family and a man who will protect his wife and children first.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex is a husband, father, humanitarian, military veteran, mental wellness advocate, environmentalist, and bestselling author. He resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his family and three dogs. His memoir, Spare, was published on January 10, 2023.

Mailbox Monday #725

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Our Wolves by Luanne Castle, which is on tour with Poetic Book Tours.

In Our Wolves, poet Luanne Castle navigates the timeless story of “Little Red Riding Hood” in a compelling collection of sharp, memorable poetry. Familiar tales are ageless for a reason. Their magic is that they can easily be transformed to explore subjects of abuse, danger, sexuality, self-sufficiency, and interpersonal relationships in a way that makes these challenging topics palatable to readers. Trying to find the reasoning behind Red’s traumatic adventure, as well as using it to comment on contemporary events, Castle creates taut narratives and sympathetic monologues to show how the story shapeshifts with the teller. Here, we hear from the wolf, the huntsman/woodcutter, Grandmother, townspeople, and Red herself. Not just a victimized or innocent child, Castle’s Red also appears in wiser (and sometimes older) incarnations that are knowing, rebellious, resilient, and clever. This technique subverts stereotypical conventions and shows that Red’s story “is not so very different from yours / and yours and yours and yours and yours.” Filled with atmospheric power, dynamic portrayals, and bright imagery, Our Wolves will haunt you long after you’ve returned from its woods. -Christine Butterworth-McDermott, author of The Spellbook of Fruit & Flowers

In this recasting of the Little Red Riding Hood tale, Luanne Castle’s wolves are not the wolves skulking in our imaginations. Her poems challenge our senses, bounce from view to view, shifting their focal points. Grandmothers and red-coat-wearing girls may or may not bear guilt. Indeed, Granny may be the Wolf. Or the Wolf may be a father, pulling down panties to slap bare skin. The story is told “to search / for who, not why. It’s all about blame.”; Which is, of course, only one truth lurking within this fable. The poems in Our Wolves burrow under your skin and into your flesh. They don’t let go, no matter how you scratch; they’re unsettling, magical. Relentless. Unforgettable. -Robert Okaji, author of Buddha’s Not Talking

“Perhaps you were wrong.” In these imaginative and evocative poems, expectations are subverted, and flat, centuries-old characters are brought to life in both amusing and startling ways. Castle tells the old story of Red Riding Hood from new angles and perspectives, creating a multitude of responses from the reader, eliciting from us everything from moments of cringing to laughter. Most interestingly, Castle subverts the predictable and achieves complexity by using an unlikely combination of forms and mixed modes–from the more traditional lineated lyric and narrative poems to the unexpected Haibun and Abecedarian, using every technique available to create this lively and memorable book. These poems invite us to confront what we take for granted and then let loose our own inner wolf to bite in and savor them all–one well-crafted word at a time. -Kimberly K. Williams, author of Sometimes a Woman and Still Lives

What did you receive?

Happy Birthday!

I wanted to take a minute to wish my daughter a Happy Birthday today!

I cannot wait for her to have her Roller Skating party! She’s been asking for one for ages, and this is the year.

Have a great birthday!


Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafo (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook: 4+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor, narrated by Adjoa Andoh and my 2nd book for the 12 books 12 friends reading challenge, opens with Sankofa walking through a Ghanaian village of ghosts, where people hide when she walks the streets. This opening immediately makes this story curious. Why are the villagers hiding from her? Is she dangerous?

Soon she pays a visit to a home, and announces, “Death has come to visit.”

Sankofa has a life before this in which she was known as Fatima. Even at age five she held the dust from a meteor shower without feeling its heat, and when she found a seed in a box, her imagination is all her parents and brother see. Of course, there are government officials who know better.

This story is both futuristic and in the present at the same time, steeped in traditions of Ghana. Planes and drones, unknown seeds, and abilities to manipulate light, time, and space. Adjoa Andoh is an engaging narrator and had me hooked on this story from the beginning, though I suspect that has a lot to do with the Okorafor’s material.

Fatima is transformed and when the light comes, she’s unable to control it and villages and individuals will be lifeless. She also cannot use technology without rendering it useless. Her journey is now as the angel of death, and she’s nomadic for much of the story as she searches for the seed that is stolen from her. Alone, she embarks on a journey of discovery. Is she empathy and compassion or is she evil like the villagers believe?

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor is captivating from the first page, and it is clear that there is a juxtaposition between cultural superstition and the old ways and the advancement of technology. But at its heart the story is about a young, orphaned girl looking for her place in the world, one that fears her.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Nnedimma Nkemdili “Nnedi” Okorafor is a Nigerian-American writer of science fiction and fantasy for both children and adults. She is best known for her Binti Series and her novels Who Fears Death, Zahrah the Windseeker, Akata Witch, Akata Warrior, Lagoon and Remote Control. She has also written for comics and film.

Mailbox Monday #724

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

The Death of Weinberg: Poems and Stories by Walter Weinschenk for Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Walter Weinschenk is an attorney, writer, and musician. Until a few years ago, he wrote short stories exclusively but now divides his time equally between poetry and prose. Walter’s writing has appeared in a number of literary publications including The Carolina Quarterly, Lunch Ticket, Cathexis Northwest Press, Meniscus Literary Journal, The Banyan Review, and Sand Hills Literary Magazine. Walter lives in a suburb just outside Washington, D.C. More of Walter’s writing can be found at walterweinschenk.com.

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto from the library for my work’s book club.

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is inadvertently shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for the family wedding business—”Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor from Hoopla for the 12 friends, 12 books challenge.

An alien artifact turns a young girl into Death’s adopted daughter in Remote Control, a thrilling sci-fi tale of community and female empowerment from Nebula and Hugo Award-winner Nnedi Okorafor

Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award

“Narrator Adjoa Andoh captivates listeners with a stunning new sci-fi novella set in a near-future Ghana. Andoh is perfectly in tune with Okorafor’s compelling story, smoothly switching between her British accent as the narrator and the intonations of the vibrant characters she brings to life.” (AudioFile magazine)

“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.”

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa ­­- a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks – alone, except for her fox companion – searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?

What did you receive?

Mount Fuji: 36 Sonnets by Jay Hall Carpenter

Source: the poet
Paperback, 41 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Mount Fuji: 36 Sonnets by Jay Hall Carpenter, a homage to “36 Views of Mount Fuji” by Katsushika Hoskusai, is a collection of sonnets exploring life, death, love, and being an artist.

In the opening sonnet, “Cathedral and Artisan,” the poet reflects on a life as a sculptor at the National Cathedral in D.C., or so it seems, and while the art seems impervious to age, the artist is weary and aging. It is a sonnet in homage to the artist and his work. “Too soon, we souls who built you will be gone,/But through the centuries you’ll sing our song!” There’s a sense of nostalgia in this poem and in the one that follows, but there also is the feeling that what is in the past is okay as part of the past.

As a reader of poetry, I understand the appeal of the sonnet and its familiar rhythms and rhymes, but for me, it feels forced on some occasions in this collection, but not in a way that is jarring or takes you out of the poem. You just get the sense that the poet has had to work hard to create the verse, maybe a little too hard.

The more personal poems work best for me in this collection, though the ones based on art or art work are nice additions to the forms discussed. One of my favorites in the collection is “Last Resort”:

Last Resort (pg. 25)

My lady loves to navigate the planet
While I would vegetate where I was born,
But when she lights the flame to go, I fan it --

And later in the poem:

And here we stew, awash in Pilgrim slime;
Regret is how I mark the passing time.

We can all understand these feelings of regret born of adventure gone astray, and we all feel the passage of time. Sometimes more acutely than we would like. Mount Fuji: 36 Sonnets by Jay Hall Carpenter is collection of sonnets exploring the human condition with an artist’s eye.

RATING: Tercet

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Jay Hall Carpenter is an author and artist living in Maryland. His written works include plays, musicals, children’s books, and poetry. For several years he published The ACE Occasionally, a small literary humor magazine. “Dark and Light” is his first collection of poetry.

Carpenter’s career in the visual arts spans forty years and began at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where he designed 520 of the Cathedral’s sculptural embellishments, including gargoyles and angels. His public sculptures, monuments, smaller bronzes, and drawings can be found throughout the United States and at JayHallCarpenter.com.

The Troop by Nick Cutter (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 11+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Troop by Nick Cutter, narrated by Corey Brill, is equally creepy and suspenseful as a cross between Lord of the Flies and bio-engineering and infection tale. Corey Brill is a stunning narrator and at times reminds me of the best crazy Jack Nicholson (think The Shining).

Scoutmaster Dr. Tim Riggs takes a group of teen boys into the Canadian wilderness (an island near Prince Edward Island) for a three-day camping trip when a sick man wanders into their area. Dr. Riggs offers to help the man, since the troop will be picked up by boat in a few days. What begins as a moment of altruism soon becomes a survival tale in which only the uninfected will survive, but only if they keep the infected away and can prevent their own sickness from taking hold.

Cutter has some pretty typical boys in this troop and each has a strength and weakness, and, of course, there are those who are not exactly friendly with one another. Kent and Ephraim are clearly the tough guys and in a silent battle to be top dog, while there are others who are harboring secrets and some who are trying not to be so weak (or what society perceives as weak).

This book will definitely have you squirming. It’s uncomfortable as all hell. The Troop by Nick Cutter is a horrifying read. Definitely one you’ll want to devour if you like terror, horror, or suspense.

Rating: Cinquain

Mailbox Monday #723

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

You Cannot Save Here by Anthony Moll for Gaithersburg Book Festival.