Poetically Speaking: Forgetfulness by Billy Collins

This year I’m bringing back Poetically Speaking for National Poetry Month (April) to discuss some of my favorite poems. Today’s poem is “Forgetfulness” by Billy Collins:

The name of the author is the first to go
 followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
 which suddenly becomes one you have never read, 
never even heard of,

 

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
 decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
 to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye 
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
 and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
 the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

 

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember 
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
 not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

 

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
 whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
 well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those 
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

 

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night 
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
 No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
 out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

During the pandemic I started doing weekly generative meetings with my writing group and began contributing some prompts. I came across this one when I was working on prompts about memories and forgetting.

I’ve started to think of this poem as the definition of bittersweet. The writing is so lyrical and conjures these poignant images even while talking about those same memories inexorably slipping away.

March 2021 Reading Tracker

Books I Had Planned to Read:

Books I Read:

  1. Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed For Men by Caroline Criado Perez (reread)
  2. Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant
  3. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  4. Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard (kindle)
  5. Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater
  6. Pericles, Prince of Tyre by William Shakespeare (audio)
  7. Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare (audio)
  8. Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan
  9. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
  10. Henry VI Part One by William Shakespeare (audio)
  11. Henry VI Part Two by William Shakespeare (audio)
  12. Henry VI Part Three by William Shakespeare (audio)
  13. The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
  14. Amber and Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz
  15. Lucky Girl by Jamie Pacton
  16. Broken Web by Lori M. Lee
  17. A Psalm For the Wild Built by Becky Chambers
  18. Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
  19. It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood

Books Received:

  1. Don’t Hate the Player by Alexis Nedd (ARC, requested)

You can also see what I read in February.

Top Ten Tuesday: Fictional Places I’d Love to Live

Would I survive in any of these settings, debatable. But I’d still love to try living in some of these books (click the title to read my reviews):

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  2. Sabriel by Garth Nix
  3. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  4. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  5. Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  6. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
  7. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
  8. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
  9. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
  10. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

The Secret Recipe for Moving On: A Review

The Secret Recipe for Moving On by Karen BischerTransferring high schools in the middle of junior year when her father’s restaurant went bust was hard but now Mary Ellen “Ellie” Agresti has the perfect boyfriend and new friends as she starts her senior year.

Until Ellie is dumped right when school starts so Hunter can get together with his childhood best friend Brynn.

Now Ellie has to watch Hunter and Brynn being lovey-dovey everywhere–including a class they all share. Applicable Life Skills for Young Adults (AKA Home Ec) was supposed to be an easy A but now it’s an easy way to get Ellie’s blood boiling.

Hoping to salvage the class and her senior year, Ellie focuses on revenge. If she can beat Hunter’s team, that will mean she wins the breakup and the class competition. The only problem is that Ellie’s pretend “family” for class is more like a group of misfits with loudmouth AJ, horse racing junkie Isaiah, and stunt-biker Luke.

Bonds can form in the unlikeliest places but even Ellie isn’t sure what to do when her “family” starts to feel like friends (or maybe even more with Luke) especially when she still isn’t sure how to get over the breakup she never saw coming in The Secret Recipe for Moving On (2021) by Karen Bischer.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Secret Recipe for Moving On is Bischer’s debut novel.

Any charm to be derived from this plot, is lost early on as the entire first twenty per cent of the book focuses on the build up to the breakup and Ellie’s initial wallowing. While the immediacy of Ellie’s distress is admirable, I didn’t need to feel like I was going through the entire thing with her–particularly when jacket copy suggests the breakup is a done deal by the time the story starts.

The Secret Recipe for Moving On is also hopelessly mired in classism and sexism which, although it is acknowledged, is never fully interrogated. During the home ec class each group of students is assigned an imaginary family to work with for their budget and other class projects. Ellie’s group is “stuck” with a single mother raising two children on a bus driver’s salary. Much to the group’s dismay (even though both Ellie and Luke are low income students compared to their classmates).

Combining their initials, the group decides to call their family “JAILE” saying it will intimidate other teams (by implying prison connotations?) which is further insulting. Finally, the point where I knew I was done with this book was when a classmate in a rival “family” told Ellie and her group that their single mother could turn to stripping for extra cash or rely on food stamps during a grocery shopping exercise. While the character behind these remarks is eventually cast as a villain, the comments themselves stigmatizing poverty, sex work, and government support are never addressed or commented on.

During the same shopping exercise, AJ picks up two grapefruits pretending to be a woman while shopping (you can imagine) and the only comment is Luke acknowledging with a look that the joke might be less funny given Ellie’s presence. As part of the core group AJ has some growth as the story progresses too but, again, we are past the point where sexist remarks or actions like this should ever get a pass.

The Secret Recipe for Moving On has all of the pieces to be a fun and sweet story. Unfortunately, the book takes too long to interrogate all of the really problematic elements–for the ones that are examined at all. Readers looking for a fun rom com should pick this one up with caution.

Possible Pairings: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake, The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, Lucky Caller by Emma Mills, Cake Pop Crush by Suzanne Nelson, A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Week in Review: March 27: In Which I Struggle to Access WordPress’s Classic Editor and Make an Infographic

missprintweekreview

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

An inordinate amount of my week was spent being incredibly annoyed at my blogging platform, WordPress, when I couldn’t find how to get back to the Classic Editor. It took two days, some desk pounding, but I finally found a way to access it with the guide here that is buried on the WordPress help site: https://wordpress.com/support/classic-editor-guide/#how-to-access-the-classic-editor

The rest of my week was spent talking with people on Twitter about book donations and the rest was spent talking about book donations and Canva.

In all honesty, this was a long week in what’s been a long month. I really needed some wins and I’m happy to say that by Friday things had started to turn around.

Everything You Need To Know About Donating Books to the Library (And What to Do With Them Instead)

If you’re a part of Library Twitter, you might have seen a thread from me about libraries and book donations. I’ve compiled all of that information here with some other useful links and an infographic at the bottom of this post:

Why Your Library Might Not Want Your Books:

  • Libraries have to consider the cost of materials and labor: Book donations are often more costly to the library than you think. The library needs to accept and store donations. If they add them to a collection that also involves processing it to add to the online catalog plus adding labels, barcode, etc. If book ordering and processing is centralized that’s one more barrier to discourage adding donated books to a collection.
  • Most donations are gross: Even if your books are pristine, most aren’t. A lot of people are very precious about books and use donating to libraries as a way to get rid of books they don’t want to throw out. Meaning libraries get out-of-date, beat-up materials they can’t use.
  • Nothing lasts forever. Including books: A healthy and functional library system routinely weeds for condition, low circulation, and other issues. You don’t want a library that will keep everything you give them. It speaks to a lack of attention to community needs/interests.
  • Librarians can’t be precious about books. You want them to have that so -called thick skin because it means they are paying attention to what the library community wants and needs on shelves.
  • Books are the least of what libraries have to offer the public. Before you spend all of your concern on the books, remember all the other services libraries offer and all of the support library workers provide your community.
  • Libraries are very worried about protecting patrons AND staff from exposure to Covid-19. Part of that is limited services. Part of it might also include no longer accepting donations.

Wherever You Donate Books:

  • Wherever you donate, especially if you plan on donating in bulk: ASK FIRST
  • There might be specific requirements for donations and specific times in which donations are accepted.
  • Even if they accepted donations in the past, things change and you don’t want to take a trip for nothing.
  • Do NOT leave donations after being told they will not be accepted.

Donated Books Should Be:

  • Pristine: no tears, no writing or highlighting, no mold/foxing, dust jackets if applicable, no ex-library copies. If you wouldn’t buy it at a book sale, don’t donate it.
  • Recent: If you are donating non-fiction it should have been published within the last five years. Older than that runs the risk of spreading out of date information.
  • No textbooks: These are usually too specialized for public libraries and even for academic libraries are probably out of date.
  • No encyclopedias: They’re out of date. Don’t do it.
  • No periodicals: Do not bring your old magazines to the library. After you read them their next step in life should be the recycling bin.

When You Donate:

  • Donating a book does not mean it will enter the collection. Your books might instead be sold in a library book sale (another costly process for the library to put together), given away at programs, or recycled by the library themselves.
  • Remember, once you donate a book, you’re done with it. Which is to say you will not be able to control what happens next. Some will be used and read. Some will be sold.
  • Many donated books will be recycled. This is the natural cycle of a book (really). The good thing about donating is, even if they end up being recycled, it will be done properly because the donation site probably has a relationship with a book recycling facility.

Your Library Doesn’t Take Donations. Now What?

Before we talk about donation options, I also want to be clear: “readable” is not the same as “donatable.” Any books you donate should be pristine—new or very good condition with dust jackets if applicable. For non-fiction this also means recent. Older than 5 years? Recycle it.

Remember: ALWAYS ASK before donating books.

You can try contacting the places below:

  • Local Schools/Teachers (when books are age appropriate): With very few exceptions your books will not end up in a school library, but they might be useful for a teacher’s classroom library.
  • Local Hospitals: Many hospitals have waiting rooms or other sites with books. Be prepared for them to have restrictions on what they can accept and when, especially with the pandemic.
  • Thrift Stores/Used Bookstores: You might find a store that will buy books from you. They will pay a fraction of retail. You might also find stores that will accept donations to resell.
  • Local Shelters
  • Retirement Centers and Nursing Homes: Many people chimed in with this suggestion. They might only accept specific formats or types of books so be sure to check before trying to drop something off.
  • Local Literacy Programs
  • After School/Daycare Programs (when age appropriate)
  • Armed Forces Charities: There are many organizations that get books into the hands of members of the armed forces. You can get details on where to start at Books for Soldiers and Operation Paperback.
  • Prison Libraries: Many prison libraries are also desperate for materials. They are a great place to donate but will have restrictions on the types of books they can accept (this could be both for content and format). Details can be found here: https://prisonbookprogram.org/prisonbooknetwork/

What Else Can You Do With Books You Want to Donate?

If you don’t have any luck with any of the above you can also:

  • Add your books to a little free library (or create one)
  • Ask at local laundromats
  • Set up book swaps in your community (following safety protocols)
  • Post them on Paperback Swap: This is a trading site where you can post individual books for trade. They also run periodic campaigns accepting donations for schools and the military.
  • Use books for altered book crafts including folded book sculptures, collage, using pages for origami, etc.

Other Ways to Support Your Library:

Libraries are so much more than books. The best ways to support your local library (and your library’s workers) are to use it, to give cash donations, and to advocate for the library with your elected officials.

Book Donation Infographic made by Emma Carbone

Don’t Date Rosa Santos: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Demand more of your possibilities.”

Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina MorenoEveryone knows that the Santos women don’t go near the water. Not anymore. Rosa Santos knows that better than anyone. After her grandfather died to make sure Rosa’s pregnant grandmother made it to Florida, and after her own father died at sea when her mother was eighteen and pregnant, Rosa knows that the Santos women and boys on boats don’t mix.

Despite her grandmother’s bad memories, Rosa is desperate to visit Cuba herself. Something she thought she had finally figured out with a dual enrollment program at her local community college and a study abroad program at a four year university.

Just when Rosa can start to imagine herself walking along the maricon in Havana, the study abroad program is cancelled leaving all of Rosa’s plans up in the air. Which is how Rosa, the girl who has never set foot near Port Coral’s beach finds herself organizing the annual spring festival to try and save the local marina.

Rosa’s reluctant helper is Alex Aquino whose family owns the marina. Back in town for the first time since graduation, Alex is not the gawky boy Rosa remembers. This Alex has tattoos, a beard, and a smile that just might be lethal. He also has baking skills and, worst of all, his own boat.

As Rosa and Alex grow closer, Rosa has to decide if a family curse is a good enough reason to give up on all of the things she wants most in Don’t Date Rosa Santos (2019) by Nina Moreno.

Find it on Bookshop.

Don’t Date Rosa Santos is Moreno’s debut novel. Through Rosa’s narration readers are introduced to the charming town of Port Coral, Florida and its quirky residents.

While the main plot focuses on Rosa’s efforts to save the Port Coral marina, this is a story about grief and family history. Rosa has grown up with her grandmother, Mimi, learning Mimi’s tricks when it comes to brujeria and making a home for herself in Port Coral. Meanwhile, Rosa’s mother is a wandering artist who hasn’t felt at home in Port Coral since her teens when Rosa’s father died. All three generations of women have been touched by tragedy–a linking thread that drives the family further apart instead of drawing them together.

These ruminations on grief are tempered with the madcap preparations for the festival and Rosa’s tentative romance with Alex–one of the best male leads you’ll find in a YA rom com–and Rosa’s efforts to try and understand her own family’s history both in Port Coral and in Cuba.

Don’t Date Rosa Santos is a perfect blend of the setting from Gilmore Girls, the magic in Practical Magic, and just a hint of the strong family ties in Charmed. The perfect choice for readers looking for a sweet romance with humor and intrigue in equal measure. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo, Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant, Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton, Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova, The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake, Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, Recommended For You by Laura Silverman, Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Funny Titles

Today’s prompt is books with funny titles. Click any of the titles below to read my review too.

  1. Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Liane Oelke
  2. Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner
  3. The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo (admittedly this might be funny because I always want to sing it)
  4. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
  5. You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
  6. Past Perfect by Leila Sales
  7. Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco
  8. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Piranesi: A Review

Piranesi by Susanna ClarkeThe rooms in the House are infinite. Connected by endless corridors and Vestibules with walls lined with thousands of Statues–each unique in both appearance and in name. Water moves through these Halls, waves flooding and draining according to the changing of the Tides.

Piranesi understands the House and its ways intimately. He can navigate the Halls and track the Tides. He visits his favorite Statues and, most importantly, he tends to the House as he explores its vast spaces.

There is one other living person in The House: The Other, a man searching for A Great and Secret Knowledge that Piranesi suspects he may never find.

The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite. It provides everything that Piranesi needs. But even with his intimate knowledge of the House and its workings, Piranesi doesn’t know what it means when evidence of another Person emerges.

Will they be friend as Piranesi hopes? Foe as The Other warns? As Piranesi comes closer to answering these questions he will also unravel an awful truth as vast and immeasurable as the House itself in Piranesi (2020) by Susanna Clarke.

Find it on Bookshop.

Piranesi is Clarke’s deceptively slim followup to her blockbuster novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. There is simultaneously a lot to talk about here and very little that can be said without revealing spoilers (which I have avoided here).

Clarke is an excellent writer. Despite the quirks of Piranesi’s first-person narration and the idiosyncrasies of the book’s structure, readers are immediately drawn into this strange and layered story.

The intricate unfolding of the plot contrasts sharply with mounting urgency as The Other tries to find the mysterious new person and kill them while Piranesi tries to save them. Even the meandering, stream of consciousness style of much of the book can’t diminish the tension as the novel builds inexorably to its climax.

Unfortunately, the actual ending is not as compelling as the buildup; no one is settled or even okay by the end, nothing is resolved. For a story that starts so big, with so many vast possibilities, the final outcome feels like the least compelling direction Piranesi could have taken.

Piranesi is a fascinating exercise in craft as Clarke expertly manages both the narrative and plot with well-timed reveals and twists. These notable elements underscore how little actually happens throughout the novel, especially in terms of characterization or growth.

Possible Pairings: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Slade House by David Mitchell, The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, Or What You Will by Jo Walton

Week in Review: March 20

missprintweekreview

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

What a long week this has been.