Book review: Searching For The Truth

Book cover: Searching For The Truth

Searching For The Truth: Poems & Prose Inspired by our Inner Worlds by Maranda Russell begins with the dedication: “For everyone who isn’t afraid to search for the truth, even if it means looking outside your comfort zone.”

The book takes a very personal look at difficult topics like death, uncertainty, pain, and fear.  In the intro Maranda describes her writing style as “short, blunt, and to the point”; personally I found that strengthened the poems rather than weakening them.  Descriptors are concise but meaningful, like “emotional sewage” and “their heads sloshing over with tough questions.”

One short, powerful poem focuses on all-consuming bitterness.  Another talks about forgiving someone who only saw the worst in her.  One of my favourite poems was On Opinions, and I think it needs to be put on a sign and waved around vigorously as needed:

Everyone has opinions,
but not everyone
should share theirs.

I’m sorry to tell you,
but your opinions –
no matter how closely held,
do not override
scientific fact.

 

Book cover: Stories Behind My Art

You should also check out Stories Behind My Art, in which Maranda shows that being an artist is more about staying true to yourself than doing what others might think you’re supposed to do. The book includes several pieces of her art, along with descriptions of the meaning behind each one. I found having the combination of visual art and words allowed me to see things in the art that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. There was a good mix of pieces that contained profound messages and others that captured some of the simple beauties and pleasures of life.

 

These are both short books that are easy to read, and I would definitely recommend that you check them out!

 

You can find Maranda on her blog Maranda Russell.

 

You can find my other book reviews here.

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, is available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

 

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Book reviews: Poetry from Maranda Russell

Book cover: Not Afraid to be real          book cover: From Both Sides

This week I’m doing a 2-in-1 book review of two poetry collections from Maranda Russell.

From Both Sides: A Look Into the World of Foster Care from Those Who Know It Best is a short book of prose poems that’s written both from the perspective a foster child and that of a foster parent.  Maranda herself has been a foster parent.  She explains that her aim is to clarify the challenges faced by foster kids and parents, and bring encouragement and inspiration.

Themes in the poems about being a foster kid include feeling like damaged goods,  being shuffled around and lacking permanence, and self-hatred.  One poem that I found particularly moving is False Hope, which is about being led to believe that a return home will be happening soon.  One of my favourite lines in the book: “I’m like fruitcake, the gift that no one really wants.”

The parents section talks about things being stolen, the ongoing effects from the child’s previous abuse, powerlessness, and a flurry of other challenging emotions.  The poems provide insight into both the rewards and the difficulties that go along with foster parenting.


In Not Afraid To Be Real: A Poetry Collection, Maranda writes that she prefers “gritty, down-to-earth poems that speak to the heart and make us see life in a way that we might not have before.”  The themes in the book move from love to struggle and darkness and then on to hope, concluding with some quirky fun.

I really liked the ending of the poem Accept Me As I Am:

“Hurt me –
then heal me.

And most importantly,
keep loving me
even when I
refuse to love myself.”

The Living Dead looks at expectations that we let go of  dreams that are no longer considered acceptable.  Other themes running through the darker sections of the book include feeling dismissed, unwanted, and unaccepted.  Everybody Loves You ponders the rose-coloured glasses through which we tend to see those who have passed on, and whether its worth being remembered in such a way.

And, fitting for this time of year, does flatulence belong in Christmas?  Absolutely, and it makes an appearance in Bad Christmas Poem!

I very much enjoyed both of these collections, and they’re written in a way that’s very accessible and real even for people who don’t typically read poetry.  Maranda definitely delivers on her preference for a gritty, down-to-earth style of poetry.

 

You can find my other book review here.

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Book review: I Am the Stars in the Sky

Book cover: I am the stars in the sky

I Am the Stars in the Sky: Finding Light in the Darkness is Karen Horsley’s second book of poetry.  While her first book, Kaleidoscopic Beauty, included a lot of poems based in nature, this new book focuses on emotions, both positive and challenging.  Her own experiences with cancer, and depression, and PTSD are major influences interwoven throughout the book.

The poems are grouped into six sections: fear, despair, isolation, change, peace, and hope.  The poems move gradually from darkness towards light, carrying the reader along on the emotional journey.  The words chosen are powerful ones, so that even the shortest poems feel very descriptive, and often evoke vivid images.

Karen experiments with different poetic forms, which I must admit I don’t have sufficient poetic knowledge to properly describe.  She uses a variety of rhyme schemes, and includes a couple of A to Z poems in which each line begins with the next letter of the alphabet.  The poems also take a variety of different visual patterns and shapes.

The poems effectively capture common experiences that many of us with mental illness struggle with.  Keep Breathing takes the reader through a panic attack,  Solitude explores the feeling of being alone even when there are others around, and  Distorted Memory uses the metaphor of a volcano to describe intrusive memories.

There were a few lines that really stood out for me.  From the poem Gravity:

“Stormy spirit invites

Dark tides in the mind

Surging, they pitch us

Into oblivion”

And from Invisible Wounds:

“Tight confines of restrictive swaddling

Concealing emotion, impeding action

Suppression of breath

Suppression of self”

The aptly chosen final poem, after which the book is named, draws together past, present, and future, and gives a great sense of hope and potential.  It’s a wonderful note on which to conclude.

This is a moving collection from poetry from a poet who clearly has great things ahead of her.

 

You can find Karen on her blog Blue Sky Days 365.

 

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Book review: Confessions of a Wallflower

Book cover: Confessions of a Wallflower by Juansen Dizon

Confessions of a Wallflower is Juansen Dizon’s first book of poetry.  The poems are divided into four sections: the depression, the love, the loss, and the self-love.  The reader is brought along on the emotional roller coaster implied by the section names.  As much as this book is about facing darkness, it is also about recognizing the power we hold within ourselves to find healing and light.

The poems are well ordered and have a good sense of flow, with many poems often picking up on a word or an idea from the preceding poem.  The poems display emotional depth, vulnerability, and self-awareness.  There are some powerful metaphors, such as likening love to oxygen and depression to cancer for the soul.  Sadness is described as a double-edged sword that is both curse and blessing.

The book touches on difficult topics like wanting to die.  In the author’s list of thirteen rules for his life, the final two are “I am required to live” and “I am not allowed to kill myself.”  Juansen explores both his depression and his social anxiety, and the isolation this can bring.

The poems contemplate the power of love, both in a positive and a destructive sense, as the book moves from finding love to losing love.  The complex thoughts and emotions associated with love are pared down into simple yet powerful words.  The concluding section of the book gives attention to self-love, which we all too often don’t pay enough attention to.

Sadness is explored deeply in this book.  It is connected to depression, but Juansen also writes about how positive things can come from sadness, including love and healing.  He cautions that “sadness cannot be buried with positive thoughts”, something that resonated with me as I have certainly never been able to think my way out of depression.

At the beginning of the book, Juansen writes that he hopes that this book will change him.  I think it is a book that has the power to change readers, as well.

 

You can find Juansen on his blog Lonely Blue Boy.

 

You can also check out my review of his second book I Am the Architect of My Own Destruction.

Note: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Book review: Kaleidoscopic Beauty

book cover: Kaleidoscopic Beauty by Karen Horsley

Kaleidoscopic Beauty: A Collection of Poetry on Love, Loss, and the Beauty of the Natural World is Karen Horsley’s first book.  It’s been exciting to watch Karen develop as a poet on her blog.  It was quickly apparent that she was very talented, and I’m so glad she decided to run with it!

There’s great variety in writing style among the poems in this book.  I’m by no means a poetry expert so I lack the terminology to actually explain what I mean, but Karen experiments with different structures, both visually and rhythmically, as well as different rhyme schemes.  There are unexpected descriptions; while we might generally think of snow as bright, in one poem it results in “earth’s rich palette dulled to white”

I liked the range of vocabulary that Karen used, and the beautiful combinations of words that make the whole process appear effortless.  In the poem that inspired the book’s title, Karen writes:

“Washed by rain, the earth shimmers

The sun’s golden rays intensify

Nature’s glorious colours

Of kaleidoscopic beauty”

The nature poems are a reminder to be mindful and appreciative of the beautiful world that surrounds us, and they evoke vivid imagery.  Some of the descriptions of nature were also very significant as descriptions of human life, such as

” The fragility of perfection so easily marred

And tainted by footprints in the snow.”

The poems about the challenges life throws at us are likely to resonate with many readers, as they seem to capture the essence of the human experience.  The poem Forest In My Mind reminded me a lot of some of my own mind’s inner tangles.  There were other poems, such as Life View, that were equally effective at evoking visual images to correspond to experiences we face in our lives.

I particularly liked Karen’s choice of final poem for the book; I Rise gives hope that rising from the ashes is possible.  This book as a whole is a wonderful reminder that from life’s greatest challenges can come great beauty.

 

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You can find Karen on her blog Blue Sky Days 365