Petrified Flowers by Joiya Morrison-Efemini

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Petrified Flowers by Joiya Morrison-Efemini

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

A devastating tragedy takes teenaged Iris and her five younger sisters away from their middle-class life and to a place that leaves them staring over at advantages they’re barred from. But the sisters, especially the two oldest, are in for more they’ll have to learn—some of it the hard way—to bloom as they’re meant to in Petrified Flowers by author Joiya Morrison-Efemini.

It wasn’t until I’d already decided to read this young adult novel that I found out it’s a novel-in-verse. This author writes with the deft and nuanced hand of a true poet and novelist combined, illustrating through selective, lyrical language how verbosity isn’t required to tell a deep, complex, and hard-hitting story.

Through a cast of convincingly flawed characters, this novel addresses so much, whether for extended or brief moments: joy, grief, race, privilege, poverty, murder, rape, faith, hope, love, redemption. I was awed here, cut to the core there, and in for some surprises. I love it when I don’t foresee a story’s every twist and turn from a mile away.

And even as a longtime ChristFic fan, I’ll admit this book has more Bible-y and salvation-talk than I usually go for in fiction. But the author is indeed a storyteller, and I wasn’t made to feel like the story became a prop for a sermon. The spiritual content and context fits the plot and characters well.

Now, the book has a few minor errors in grammar unrelated to artistic license, and the way the story eventually ties up so much becomes fairy-tale-ish. Also, I wonder what message the book may send to some readers about money, and how they might feel if they’re truly without certain advantages or opportunities. However, the story does speak to the impact of self-sabotage, to either missing or recognizing and accepting one’s blessings, and it conveys that even a life of faith won’t be a cakewalk exempt from pain.

Whether readers are within or past their YA stage of life, many would do well to read this poignant, sobering, beautiful, brilliantly written novel.

 

Paradise Regained by John Milton

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Paradise Regained by John Milton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thou Spirit who ledd’st this glorious Eremite
Into the Desert…
inspire,
As thou art wont, my prompted Song else mute…
to tell of deeds
Above Heroic, though in secret done…

The Tempter who once deceived humankind in the Garden of Eden is back, generations later, to tempt the Son of God in the wilderness in Paradise Regained by John Milton.

I read the preceding epic poem, Paradise Lost, some years ago and finally read its coda here for the first time. That is, I initially didn’t know it was more of a coda and was thus surprised to find it so much shorter than the first poem, which is, of course, the length of a novel.

I now have a better idea of why Paradise Lost so often stands alone. It involves more characters and does tell more of an epic story, sweeping between heaven and earth with terrestrial business and celestial war.

Still, the poetess in me was again absorbed in Milton’s way with verse.

“Yet he who reigns within himself, and rules
Passions, Desires, and Fears, is more a King;
Which every wise and virtuous man attains:
And who attains not, ill aspires to rule
Cities of men…
Subject himself to Anarchy within…”

Though I’ll admit I got more of a thrill watching the Son as the dominant warrior in the first poem, it was also great listening to him outwit his artful adversary here. Then, after his deeds Above Heroic done before none but an audience of praising angels, what else does the Son do but have a meal, leave the site of triumph, and privately head back to his mother’s house?

Hm. What else indeed.

“…and now thou hast aveng’d
Supplanted Adam, and by vanquishing
Temptation, hast regain’d lost Paradise…
on thy glorious work
Now enter, and begin to save mankind.”

____________

Here’s what I had to say about Paradise Lost.

 

Carpe Diem by Katy Huth Jones

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Carpe Diem by Katy Huth Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Face that “if” if it comes…

I only read poetry collections once in the very bluest of moons, but I decided to take a quick break with Carpe Diem by Katy Huth Jones.

I connected most with her reflections on her experiences with illness, especially where “true love” comes in. Can’t say I didn’t tear up a couple times while reading, and I wasn’t expecting that at all.

Anyone who can appreciate inspirational poetry can find something to appreciate in this collection. Light and sweet here, haunting and defiant there, with moments that are profound and uplifting.

Uplifting–and now I can see just how fitting the balloon on the book cover is!

…For now, live and rejoice.
That is hope.

 

The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told: A Memoir by Dikkon Eberhart

memoir-books

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Tyndale House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Five Gold Stars

The Time Mom Met HitlerThe Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told: A Memoir by Dikkon Eberhart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Then she looked at me with that deep, human, gestative wisdom that many women have, and which I don’t.
“We know what we’ve lost. We don’t know what we’ve gained.”

Within and outside of its context concerning a certain newborn’s genetic condition, it could take me quite a minute to unpack an observation like the “lost and gained” one, spoken by the author’s wife. But there are a number of statements that gave me pause while reading The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told: A Memoir by Dikkon Eberhart. Yes, it’s a mouthful, and it’s one of those nuanced but personable, intelligent and beautiful memoirs that makes you think and evaluate life, especially your own.

Literature and poetry enthusiasts and artists can find particular pleasure in reading about how the author relates to literary greats, to the arts, and to his father, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Added to that, the themes of struggling with one’s identity and looking for answers to longstanding inner turmoil are universal.

Though its desired effect wasn’t lost on me, I thought the amount of earlier material repeated word for word later on in the book was a little much.

Still, the memoir is wonderfully woven overall, as well as entertaining, human, and redemptive.