Obit: Poems by Victoria Chang – A Review

Obit Victoria Chang

Obit: Poems by Victoria Chang
Poetry | Contemporary | Memoir
Published by Copper Canyon Press
Released April 7th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

This was not an easy book to read.

Obit is a deeply personal collection of poems written by Victoria Chang about her grief over her mother’s illness and subsequent death along with her father’s stroke and dementia. It’s moving and somber. I had planned on reading this in a single sitting, but had to put it down and walk away a few times before I could read further.

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Victoria Chang

Told in the form of short obituaries, she tackles the way grief makes you feel, the struggle of taking care of aging and sick parents, explaining grief to your children, and so much more.

One of the reasons I struggled so much with this collection is due to the death of my own mother back in 2010. Even a decade later (which honestly feels unreal), the grief is still a raw wound. These poems opened that wound and made me feel some of the same pain I felt all those years ago.

“Subject Matter” is one of my favorite poems:

Subject Matter – always dies, what
we are left with is architecture, form,
sound, all in a room, darkened, a few
chairs unarranged. The door is locked
from the inside. But still, subject
matter breaks in and all the others rise.
My mother’s death is not her story. My
father’s stroke is not his story. I am
not my mother’s story, not my father’s
story. But there is a meeting place that
is hidden, one that holds all the maps
toward indifference. Can pain be
separated from subject matter? Can
subject matter take flight and lose its
way, peck on another tree? How do
you walk heavily with subject matter
on your back, without trampling all the
meadows?

Thanks to the publisher for the permission to reprint this poem. 

There were a few poems in this collection that didn’t speak to me, but that’s true of any collection. It’s hard for me to recommend this collection to everyone because it is difficult. If you can handle it though, it’s a beautifully crafted and honest collection.




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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson – A Review

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
Nonfiction | Self-Help | Personal Development
Published by Harper Collins
Released September 13th, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

“In my life, I have given a fuck about many people and many things. I have also not given a fuck about many people and many things. And like the road not taken, it was the fucks not given that made all the difference.”

Self-help books have become a staple of my TBR, primarily because, despite being almost 33, I’m still trying to figure my life out. As are many people. A lot of self-help books are all the same: manifesting good vibes, having faith in something, etc.. For some people that’s fine, and sometimes, depending on where I’m at in my life, it’s fine for me as well. More often than not though, it’s not enough.

I DNF-ed The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck last year because I was turned off by the edginess/cringiness of the author saying “fuck” in every sentence. Cursing in no way bothers me, but it’s obviously a ploy to stand out and catch people’s attention for this book.

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Mark Manson

I recently gave it another shot, listening to the audiobook on Scribd. Once I got through being annoyed with the style of Manson’s words and all the “fucks,” I ended up having an amazing experience with this book. In fact, I’m planning on buying a physical copy soon just so that I can read it again.

The thing that I like about The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, especially as compared to a lot of the other personal development and self-help books that I’ve read, is that it focuses on taking personal responsibility for your actions and how you respond to difficult and stressful situations. Most of us are guilty of, at some point in our lives (and some more often than others) of blaming the world or someone else for everything wrong in our lives. Sometimes it is someone else’s fault, but as Manson frequently points out in his book, the way you react to your problems is more important than anything else.

Manson has a way of making his points easy to understand and uses a lot of great examples from his personal experience to sell his ideas to readers. It works well. Listening to the audiobook was like having a serious, sit-down conversation with a mentor about getting my life together. I feel like so many people can benefit from an experience like that.

My absolute favorite part of the book is how he discusses in length the fact that you are not special. It’s even the name of one of the chapters. Coddling people is not good, and there are so many parts of society where that is happening. Participation trophies, thinking your problems are unique, etc. are leading to a culture where people don’t know how to deal with problems, losing, or any kind of disadvantage.

Obviously, Mark Manson’s approach will not appeal to everyone. It’s worth it to give it a read (or listen, the audiobook version is really good) if you think this book might help you.


Have you read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck? If so, what were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!




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The Truro Bear and Other Adventures by Mary Oliver – A Review

The Truro Bear Mary Oliver

The Truro Bear and Other Adventures by Mary Oliver
Poetry | Nature
Published by Beacon Press
Released 2008
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

As a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, Mary Oliver was a prominent figure in the poetry world until her death in January 2019. It wasn’t until her death, however, that I heard of her. Through the many articles I casually read through in the weeks following her passing, I learned that she was well-known for her poetry regarding nature.

This intrigued me and I added a few of her collections to my TBR. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I started to discover an interest in poetry. I went to my library last week in order to grab several poetry collections, primarily because I’m still learning which poets speak to me the most and which topics I gravitate toward. They had several of Mary Oliver’s collections, and from amongst them, I chose The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays. 

Published in 2008, The Truro Bear is a collection made up of forty-five poems, both new and classic, as well as two essays. Nature, and more specifically the life found in nature, is the theme throughout this collection.

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Some of my fondest memories involve being deep in the woods, surrounded by nature and wildlife, whether it was while hiking, backpacking, camping, or just relaxing somewhere beautiful. Mary Oliver clearly shows the reader how much she appreciates and loves the world around her, and it resonated with me. Anyone that loves spending time outside will find something to love in this collection.

Taken as a whole, The Truro Bear underwhelmed me, despite my strong feelings about nature. Many of the poems were well-crafted but for whatever reason didn’t move me or inspire me in any way. I want to make clear that I enjoyed the collection, it just didn’t change my life in any way.

There are a lot of poems about Mary’s dog Percy, whom she very clearly adored. The poems are adorable and relatable to dog owners all over the world. She weaves memories of the smallest moments with Percy to create a love letter to his companionship and the joy he brought her.

Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver

The part of this collection that I loved the most was not one of her poems, but an essay called “Swoon” about the life of a spider over the course of a week or so. In it, Oliver details the smallest parts of this spider’s doings, from spinning a cricket into her web and draining it of its life, to bursting egg sacks full of spiders. I’m not going to act tough and say that spiders don’t freak me the heck out, because they do, but even with my pre-existing squeamishness toward arachnids, I loved every word of this essay. It’s so easy to overlook tiny details like the type of web made by the spider forgotten in a corner, but learning to appreciate moments like this allows us to really notice the world around us and see it in the way it was intended.

There were also two quotes that spoke to me:

“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

from “The Summer Day”

 

“We must laugh a little at this rich and unequal world, so they say, so they say.
And let them keep saying it. 

from “News of Percy (Five)”

Reading Oliver’s collection makes me realize that I often fail to notice the tiny elements of life that surround me and constitute the wider world. I need to make more of an effort to notice the birds in the trees or to watch the squirrel hiding away nuts for the winter. It’s not difficult, it just takes noticing.

Although The Truro Bear turned out a little less incredible than I was expecting, I still loved it and can easily see myself going back to this collection repeatedly. A few of the poems will stay with me, and I hope others can find some more appreciation for nature, and the lives of the animals within, through Mary Oliver’s words and legacy.


Have you read any of Mary Oliver’s poetry collections? Share your recommendations for your favorites down in the comments!




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Flying Alone: A Memoir by Beth Ruggiero York – A Review

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Flying Alone: A Memoir by Beth Ruggiero York
Non-Fiction | Memoir
Self-Published
Released September 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

Note: I received a free copy of this book from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion.

Here’s a fun fact that very few people know about me:  I’m obsessed with planes. It started when I took my first flight on a small plane from Asheville to Charlotte, NC. As soon as I felt the plane take off from the runway I was absolutely hooked. I’ll take any chance I can to fly these days, and the thrill of being in the sky never gets old. When I’m unable to find a reason to fly, I’ll resort to watching cockpit videos on YouTube or, as in this case, reading about flying.

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Beth Ruggiero York

When FSB Associates reached out to me to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing York’s memoir, of course I said yes! I’ll never become a pilot myself, so I’ll eagerly live vicariously through their words. The book was also pitched to me as a memoir about a pilot being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and having to overcome that diagnosis in order to become a pilot.

While there were parts of the memoir that I genuinely enjoyed (basically every moment she was in the air), it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

Multiple sclerosis is mentioned only twice in the book – once when she is given the possible diagnosis and again, in the epilogue, when she finds out that she definitely has the disease (which is after she becomes a pilot). So while it’s not exactly a memoir about overcoming a debilitating disease (which I’m glad of, because she was able to do something she loved), it is instead a memoir about a woman learning to become a pilot, starting from the very bottom.

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The book can essentially be summed up into two parts:  First, some interesting stories about successes and trials up in the air, with airplanes that aren’t always functioning as they should. Second, the author’s account of a bad relationship with her very selfish flight instructor.

I learned a lot about how difficult it is to be a pilot. I had no idea that banner-pulling was so dangerous. She dealt with several hard situations very bravely, including essentially running out of gas and trying to land the plane in a snowstorm with an iced-over windshield.

Reading about the boyfriend that she had during the part of her life that she writes about was infuriating. Not towards her, but towards how uncaring and selfish he acted. There were times when I wished I could punch him through the page.

I feel bad about rating someone’s memoir only 3.5 stars, but I wish there had been so much more! I wanted to know more about her job flying with the airlines, and how she dealt with the multiple sclerosis diagnosis. I want to know that eventually, she was in a great relationship with someone way less douchey than her former flight instructor.


What’s your favorite memoir? Do you enjoy flying? Let me know in the comments!!




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Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle – A Review

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Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle
Memoir | Non-Fiction
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by Crown Archetype
Released October 2, 2018
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I don’t remember how old I was when I was first introduced to Monty Python, but I’ve been a fan for a very long time. Flying Circus, Life of Brian, Holy Grail… I love them all and have watched them too many times to accurately count.

Fun story: In tenth grade, I took European history, which at the time was being taught by the football coach, and it was very obvious that he didn’t have a background in history. When we got to medieval Europe, he showed us Monty Python and the Holy Grail to show us what England was like during that era. Obviously, we didn’t learn much during that class, but at least we got to watch a great movie.

Eric Idle’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is a hilarious and interesting look back at his life, his friendships with celebrities such as George Harrison and David Bowie, and a behind-the-scenes look at Monty Python.

I both read the physical book and listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Idle himself. Both are equally amazing. The audiobook is hilarious, and I found myself laughing so many times. The physical book is just as interesting, with tons of photos throughout it. If I had to recommend just one, however, go with the audiobook. It’s perfect.

At times, the celebrity name-dropping felt a little overwhelming and grew tired, but overall I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into the life of a member of a comedy group that I basically grew up watching.

I’ll leave you to watch this clip from Life of Brian (which, by the way, is my favorite Monty Python movie), in case you aren’t aware of where the title of this memoir came from.