Book review: Dog Songs

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

Five out of five Paws

When I asked for help to find this in the bookstore, the employee was enthusiastic, inquisitive, and he told me that I would love the poet. I just wanted to share that because it made me smile and think about the value of brick and mortar stores. I’ve worked at a chain bookstore and it was the only job I ever truly enjoyed.

Back to Mary Oliver: I had never read her which is kind of shameful as she won the Pulitzer, but I suppose there are too many writers out there for me to know everyone. This book was on my to-read list after it was recommended to a grieving dog parent. I had actually been interested to know if anyone was writing “good” dog poems. I should  know better than to ask such things of poetry.

Well, the bookstore employee was right. I did love this book. I even devoured it in only a few hours which never happens anymore. It made me cry. Books never make me cry.

I am aware that this review has become merely an overview of my visceral response rather than any thoughts on writing style or whatnot but I’d like to think that saying “this book broke and mended my heart” is review enough.


Book Review: The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

4.8 out of 5 Paws


This is an unusual book and a bit of a jarring switch from her usual if you spent the past couple months working your way through Stiefvater’s books. I would classify this one as magical realism.

I loved that I could tell Stiefvater was a fellow horse lover. I didn’t know for sure until after I finished the book and looked it up. It was the way she wrote about them. Even the blood-thirsty sea horses.

I also ended up looking into whether or not Thisby is real place. It’s not. But it felt so real. That was one of the real strengths of the book. You could feel the sand and taste the salt on the air.

It was a love song to place and animals.

Book Review: Wild Becomes You

Wild Becomes You by Ashley Sapp

Five out of Five Paws

It’s about friendship and grief and depression. It’s about the beauty of nature and our bodies’ literal and figurative place on Earth. It’s about love.

This chapbook is timely. I feel intensely like it embodies the struggles and thoughts of the older millennial (as much as I hate that word). But then, it is not so rooted in the year 2017 that those from other and future generations won’t be able to relate. Honestly, a couple of poems (those particularly about the loss of friendship) hit me so hard and so exactly square in my chest that I stopped reading for awhile. But it was nice, so nice, to feel un-alone in such a situation that makes a person feel very isolated.

Sometimes I fear that mental illness (especially depression) and the notion of empowering the self (in particular, women) has become trendy. I have read some poems lately that felt bland and obvious. Ms. Sapp’s writing, her words and metaphors are unique. She makes you think about some of the things that others are talking about too, but she makes you see them in a whole new way.

I just really enjoyed this. And I hope, and also know, that Ms. Sapp will go far.

It Starts Here

back-1432137-639x852The journey starts here.

But I think “journey” is the wrong word because it sounds pleasant–all path through the autumn woods, yoga and protein shakes, essential oils and leggings. It was nothing like that. It was a battle–no–multiple battles. It was a war.

I’ve been kind of flailing through space here on my blog. I wanted it to be mostly about writing but in truth it has simply become a catch-all for any thoughts I can manage to get through a keyboard.  I’ve been wanting to give it a niche. Especially since I have vowed to keep all my new creative work to myself in an effort to traditionally publish.

Two weeks ago I was finally given a diagnosis for the chronic pain I had been dealing with for two years. This was the battle. If you’ve never been your own medical advocate, let me tell you how exhausting it is, how hopeless it feels. You bounce from PCP (primary care physician), to specialist, to alternative practitioner looking mostly for relief but also answers. They believe you a little, or not at all. Maybe they believe you fully but their hands are tied by licenses and degrees.

There’s nothing wrong with you.
Then why couldn’t I get out of bed?
Aren’t you glad?
Look, I’m happy that my blood is negative and that my organs function properly but there’s something wrong with me. And that’s ok. Ok? I’ve had “something wrong” with me for fifteen years now. But this is different. Help, please.

I battled my way to a diagnosis. I slashed and stabbed and bloodied many doctors’ offices as well as my own life. I have fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome/chronic pain disorder. My central nervous system is all screwed up with pain and pain signals. Finally: answers.

But I had only won one battle. There are many more to come. And there have already been others. This war didn’t start two years ago but fifteen. And it didn’t start in my muscles, my joints, nor my skin. It started in my head.

My senior year of high school I was diagnosed with social and general anxiety disorders. Four years earlier, I had experienced my first major depressive episode. In college, I spun through the whirlwind of hypomania. I had been self-harming for years by then. It wasn’t until grad school that any of these other issues were addressed. I had to completely combust first.  And, even then, it wasn’t until after I graduated that someone seemed to have a clue and the medications finally started working a little. I had been on so many. I had gained 80 pounds. I was merely surviving. I was bipolar (II). I had PTSD. I still had anxiety disorders. I was severely depressed for five long years.

The hardest battles are the ones you fight with yourself while laying in a dark room, staring at the wall.

Should I be writing about this? I’m already in enough pain daily. Should I be ripping open my soul and letting it bleed all over the internet? You know, nothing ever truly disappears on the internet. There are still people out there who don’t believe in any of my diagnoses (lol, ok, just go ahead and stick your fingers in your ears and sing “la, la, la”). There are people out there who think I’m a drug addict looking for a fix. There are people out there who think I’m just a lazy cow.

And that’s why I have decided to lend my voice to the other brave voices screaming to be heard. My blog, my little pocket of the internet, is now being dedicated to sharing my past and future experiences of being a writer with chronic illness.

(And book reviews.)

Book review: Your Soul is a River

 Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill

Three out of Five Paws


I discovered Nikita Gill on Instagram. I loved her content. The short poems were inspirational. My favorites spoke womanhood and the wolf. Of embracing the wild in you. One spoke so closely to my soul, that I have decided to tattoo it on my back someday.

Needless to say, I was excited to grab this book.

While three stars is not a bad review, I was expecting to read a five star quality chapbook. I was a little disappointed.

The book was divided into sections by theme, which would be fine and is not particularly unique, only here it serves to emphasize that Gill’s poems are very repetitive. Having motifs in your poetry is good, but Gill needs to find different ways, different words, to say similar things. As it stands now, the repetition of words and even phrases make the work bland and a little tedious.

That being said, the great poems in this collection are outstanding and the book itself is beautifully put together. The poetry is easy to understand (obvious sometimes, as a downfall) but I am a champion of accessible writing. Whatever it takes to get people to read.

Book review: The Raven King

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

4.5 out of 5 Paws

I’ve made no secret of my love for Maggie Stiefvater. YA books are important and she’s one of the authors you should be reading. And as much as I loved The Wolves of Mercy Falls series, I think that The Raven Cycle surpasses my adoration. If I was doing an overarching starred review, the cycle would get five stars, and I think my favorite book out of the four is The Dream Thieves.

I’ve rated The Raven King with a very high 4.5 because it was beautiful, scary, and a satisfactory ending to the saga. There was even room left for a sequel series, which I didn’t love, but I’m sure the fanfiction writers did. I read that Stiefvater was working on a Ronan specific trilogy. I wasn’t expecting that but I am delighted by the thought. A rating of 4.5 means I thought very highly and even loved this book but it’s probably not one I will try to read again and doesn’t push anything off my favorites list.

see what I thought of the other books:

The Dream Thieves
Blue Lily, Lily Blue


Speculative Poetry

woman-1905529_1280Have I told you about speculative poetry?


How long has this been a thing? Probably since before I was born, but one would think I would have stumbled upon such a thing by now. Isn’t poetry supposed to be about love and depression and meadows and industrialization? That’s what they told me in school. I’m pretty sure that the words “science fiction” and “poetry” could not legally be uttered in the same sentence during my undergraduate program. That’s probably a part of the white, male, elitist MFA program problem that I see a lot of my peers mentioning.

Anyway, there was no way in hell that I had written a poem that was intentionally fictional nor fantastical in recent years. But I remember, I have proof, that when I first started writing poems in middle school, I didn’t know any such subject constraints. When I was twelve years old, I wrote all kinds of poetry, including speculative. I wrote about the night and vampires and werewolves. I miss that confidence of youth.  You could break all the rules because you didn’t even know the rules (however arbitrary) existed.

I don’t remember where I first heard about genre poetry, but it was only a few months ago. I used my friend Google and discovered that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association exists, was founded in 1978, and is legitimate. My inner child was so excited.

Ok, let’s be honest. My everything was excited.

My favorite thing to write about is the supernatural and now I have an new form to practice with. My dreamy sixth grade head is satisfied.

I have begun to read published and award-receiving examples of the genre, as well as dabbling in my own versions. I even spied a couple markets I would be interested in submitting to, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. Now if I can just get over the crippling anxiety that my poems are too obvious…

Did you know about science fiction and fantasy poetry? Do you enjoy writing it? I’d love to see your favorite examples!