"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, June 30, 2017

Three short book reviews

Yesterday my husband read me a quote, which I can't remember exactly, but it went something like this, "Strong readers are omnivorous. They read anything." I think these three books are proof that I am a omnivorous reader.

A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay by Krystyna Poray Goddu. This book is a biography of the famous American poet aimed at junior readers (mid to upper elementary school students.) It is full of photos and poems by Vincent Millay which make the book quite charming and disarming.

Vincent, as Edna St. Vincent Millay was called by her family and friends, was the life of every party she attended. Her sisters said of her that it was like she was always being chased by a bee. If nothing was happening, she would make up something so that everyone was entertained and happy. Vincent's mother divorced her father when Vincent was around ten and then had to struggle to keep them feed and with a roof over her head. Quite often Vincent would be left for days at a time to tend her younger sisters while the mother was away nursing others. Her mother encouraged the girls in the Arts. Vincent not only wrote poetry but she played the piano beautifully, she wrote plays and, later in life, novels, and she acted on stage. In 1923 she won a Pulitzer Prize for her collection of poems, The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.
But Millay’s popularity as a poet had at least as much to do with her person: she was known for her riveting readings and performances, her progressive political stances, frank portrayal of both hetero and homosexuality, and, above all, her embodiment and description of new kinds of female experience and expression. “Edna St. Vincent Millay,” notes her biographer Nancy Milford, “became the herald of the New Woman.”---The Poetry Foundation
I really enjoyed reading about this famous American and very popular poet. I chided myself for never reading any of her poetry before and plan to rectify that situation as soon as I can. I recommend this book for anyone who likes to read biographies of famous Americans or who, like me, fancies themselves a poetry lover. My rating 4 of 5 stars.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is a collection of poetry and prose about abuse and survival. The poems, most of them are very short, are all thought-provoking, but come across almost in a stream-of-consciousness way. The book is divided into four parts: hurting, loving, breaking, and healing. Originally Kaur self-published Milk and Honey because, she said, there is no market for poetry editions on the theme of abuse and trauma. But after it quickly sold out, it was picked up by Andrew McMeel Publishing and has become a New York Times best seller.

I purchased the book for the school library based on the request of a student. I didn't jot the student's name down, however, and so I hope she eventually finds it on the shelves herself. The story, which does seem to be a story, is mostly told in poetry. Fans of Ellen Hopkins and Sonya Sones will be drawn to this slim volume. The topics of incest and abuse are tough topic, however, so this book will not be embraced by everyone. I especially liked the parts toward the end of the book where the poems point to healing and embracing love for self.

you must
want to spend
the rest of your life
with yourself
(p. 198)

I recommend that other omnivorous readers pick up this volume of poetry. It has a lot to say that is important, if not difficult, to hear. My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler is a memoir and an expo of Straight, Inc. a drug rehabilitation program which is more like "a concentration camp for throw away kids" (ACLU).

Cyndy Etler's mother remarried after her father died when she was very young. The man who was now her step-father starting sexually abusing her at some point in her life. To try and escape her tormentor Cyndy tried running away from home and found some comfort from a neighbor and from a friend down the block. This friend, Joanna, introduced Cyndy to marijuana, though she only used it twice. Because of the runaways and the drug use, Cyndy's mother had her incarcerated (essentially) in a drug treatment facility called Straight, Inc. Cyndy couldn't believe the nightmare she was forced to live where other patients were her tormentors and the only way out was to go along with them and act as if was one of them. This went on for sixteen months before Cyndy was released to go home. Though Cyndy was certainly making wrong choices before she was sent to Straight, Inc., the treatment went way over-the-line in terms of what is acceptable. In fact, Straight, Inc. was eventually shut down by lawmakers, though incarnations of it still exist today.

I read the book incredibly fast, scanning some of the sections of the horrors of the treatment wrought on the patrons at Straight, Inc. just because the details were so awful. Though this happened to Cyndy in the late 1980s and she has since landed on her feet and teaches school to troubled kids today, it is a wonder that anyone who emerged from Straight, Inc. doesn't have to attend full-time therapy today.

One thing that really bothered me as I read the book--- though Cyndy eventually tells the "group" about the incest, it was completely dismissed as her fault. Nowhere else in the book does she tell any adult about the abuse. One has to wonder if she had done that if this nightmare might not have landed on her head. Not being a victim of abuse myself I am always curious about the reticence of the victim to expose the perpetrator.

I wouldn't say this was an enjoyable book. But it certainly had some important things to say and to think about. I also didn't think the book was especially well-written. I still think that teens will find their way to this book and will pass it on to their friends. My rating is 3 of 5 stars.


  1. A college friend was also checked into a drug rehab place when she was in high school after only a couple infractions. She said it was bad, but I don't think it was anything like Straight. So glad it was shut down!

    1. If you are still in touch with this friend you might point out this book to her and ask her if her situation was similar. The author made the point that incarnations of this type of treatment center still exist today. Ugh.

  2. I love reading your book reviews because they always give me food for thought. Thank you!


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