Video Game Review: Disco Elysium

I don’t do many video game reviews, just reviews of games that I think have a great story and might be relevant to a story-writing, book-reading blog.

And this one. This one.

Disco Elysium is a miracle of an indie game produced by ZA/UM.  It’s usually $39.99 on Steam, and it’s worth every single penny. It’s unlikely to go on sale anytime soon, as it came out in 2019 and is racking up award after award.

You don’t need to read further if you don’t want. This game is amazing. But it needs more disco.

disco elysium 2020 reviews video game

Non-Spoiler Review

Traditional gamers who are into shooters or platformers exclusively probably won’t give a crap about this game. There’s absolutely no mechanics to it that require skill of any sort. The game is almost exclusively dialogue choices, interacting with objects, a lot of running, and feelings.

So what’s this game about? Well, let me show you a screen shot of how it opens.

disco elysium start image

You wake up naked in a busted hostel room, still drunk but with a hangover. You have no memories of who you are, where you are, or what you’re doing. There are voices in your head telling you what to do (each of them clearly a part of yourself).

Upon putting on clothes and exiting your room, you quickly find out that you’re a cop who was sent to investigate a lynching in the hotel’s back yard three days ago. Your primary duties were to get the body out of the tree, question important subjects, not lose your gun, and not lose your badge.

You did none of those things.

The game lets you be weird, spontaneous, and political (I went with the full-on-Ayn-Rand boner because it gave you more money).

You’ll laugh. You’ll certainly feel like an existential crisis.

dolores dei

Hints and Tips

I’m not doing spoilers, per se, because that’s lame crap. This game is too good and new to spoil.

Decide Up Front about Save Scumming

This game is really easy to save scum (which means to save, try an option that is random chance, then re-load if you fail to roll well enough). The game does not punish you too much for failing rolls, so don’t be afraid if you would rather not save scum.

I did some save scumming. If I felt like it was important enough, I would save scum. A lot of people can make it through without cheating, but I had to get what I wanted, and I don’t feel bad about it.

Beg Money off of EVERYONE

You’re poor in this game. Egregiously poor. I suggest asking literally everyone for money.

Use the Phone on the Third Day

On the third day, you get access to a new area. On that new area, you’ll find an active payphone.

disco elysium payphone

Despite it being so hard to get money, USE IT ON THE PHONE. IT IS YOUR ONE TRUEST QUEST DO IT.

Make van Eyck’s Jam Harder Core

First, of course, you need to find the ravers in a tent and do their quest, but then you need to find a magnetic tape in a tree and give it to Egg Head. Just type in “Make van Eyck’s Jam Harder Core walkthrough” into Google and follow a let’s play, honestly. I didn’t, but I got lucky.

Put Some Points in Authority

Trust me, there’s one place in the game where you’ll want authority. It doesn’t need to be your primary stat, but you should have a few – it gets clutch…

Prepare for Existential Crisis

Yes. Prepare.

dolores dei

 

Book Review: Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party

So far this month, I’ve read two Andrew Jackson related books in order to, once again, celebrate Andrew Jackson’s birthday. For those of you who clicked the title because you’re interested or very, very not interested in Democrats, please realize that the Democrats of the 1820’s and 30’s have very little in common with today’s incarnation.

The Book

41sqii0vf6l._sx331_bo1204203200_Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party
Author: Robert Remini
1959
Amazon Link

I’ve been interested in Andrew Jackson ever since I first read about him in American History in high school.  I understand that he wasn’t perfect, and I definitely get that he’s controversial (in fact, that’s part of why I love studying him and his era). I also know I like Robert Remini’s style (at least his style in the 70’s and 80’s – it will be interesting to see if his style when he was younger will be the same or what he’s changed). I have no good book cover image because this is an obscure book for an obscure president.

Martin Van Buren may not have been one of the more memorable presidents, but he was vital in Jackson’s cabinet and Kitchen Cabinet. He was instrumental in shaping American politics into what we see today, and I needed to know more about him to get a better picture of the era.

Non-Spoiler Review

Counting this book, I’ve read 6 of Remini’s works. After I finished this one, I finally gave in and admitted it:

Remini’s one of my favorite authors.

One of the primary criticisms of Remini as a historian is that he too easily takes the viewpoints and sides of his protagonists. He definitely does that with Martin Van Buren, because it’s easy to see his pro-Van Buren tone and, simultaneously, Van Buren’s absolute sliminess. It was a fascinating look at a totally underrated American figure.

This was also the earliest of Remini’s works that I’ve read. Published in 1959, it’s almost twenty years older than the next-oldest Remini work I’ve read. The way the book reads has enormous similarities to the later works, and I can see a lot of how Remini formed his own thoughts on the historical context. I enjoyed that, too.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Van Buren’s role in making the Democratic Party is readily apparent even in high school history, but the depth pursued in this work is incredible. The scummy flip-flopping Van Buren had to do in order to maintain his Albany Regency political machine was especially interesting. He went from someone who thought Jackson was “incredibly dangerous” to a guy who came lapping at his feet, hoping to ride the coattails of the General.

Van Buren would also shoot himself in the foot if it meant keeping overall control of his machine. Remini was a master of storytelling, even if he was a historian, and he excellently built towards the climax of the Tariff of Abominations. Van Buren’s two-faced, evil machinations with that tariff gave the book something of a “Breaking Bad” sort of feel.

I don’t expect pretty much anyone reading this to be interested in 1820’s New York politics as much as me, but here’s been the review anyway.

Next week:

This is a 5-week month! What sort of Jacksonian machination is going to appear next? Stay tuned!

Book Review: American Lion

Let’s celebrate Andrew Jackson’s birthday with another book full of bloodlust and hatred for Calhoun and Clay. This Pulitzer-prize winning book has a fantastic reputation, and Meacham is one of the most famous pop historians of our day. I have no idea how you could possibly do justice to Jackson in a single volume, but oh well! Gonna jump right in!

The Book

519liaiuttlAmerican Lion
Author: Jon Meacham
2008
Amazon Link

Perhaps it’s because I believe Remini’s 3-volume work gave an appropriate, scholarly overlook necessary to appreciate Jackson’s full range of character, but I’ve been suspicious of American Lion since I saw it published in 2008 (I was in undergrad at the time). This book was a Pulitzer Prize winning piece, so it’s got the award chops to back it up, but will that mean its ability to interpret from a Jacksonian Era lens will be marred?

Anyway, when Trump was elected, Time magazine produced an issue dedicated to my main man Andrew Jackson, and the magazine was largely based off this biography.* My desire to read this book grew in proportion to my suspicion, and I really want to see how you can possibly incorporate much nuance in such a short space. Which Jackson will Meacham see in his reading of original documents?

*This is probably due to the fact that Jon Meacham is probably one of the most popular historians around today, and the other part is probably that Robert Remini died in 2013 and couldn’t have written the magazine article even if they wanted him to. Which I would have.

Non-Spoiler Review

I have a total and complete hard-on for Remini’s historical analysis. A the same time, I really, really liked Meacham’s delicious writing style. His ability to craft a sentence is phenomenal. He’s also got a really good grasp of storycraft and can turn what I thought were some of the more boring parts of the Jackson administration into a fascinating story.

One issue I had with this book was probably unavoidable. Because it was limited to one volume, Meacham chose to glance over Jackson’s early life. I think this is a misfortune because without knowing this information, Jackson feels relatively inconsistent in his political beliefs and stands. Meacham attributes what I think is too much to Jackson’s orphaning and experiences in the revolution, and not enough to his marriage, victory at New Orleans, and insane, bloodthirsty time working with the Blount faction. I personally don’t believe in attempting historical psychology, which Meachem definitely tried to do.

I enjoyed this book because it focused on some of the social aspects of 1820’s and 30’s politics that Remini basically glanced over. The Petticoat War was fascinating in this book, though I think Meacham could have done more to show Van Buren’s massive influence in the set of events. I absolutely loved his analysis of Emily Donelson’s recently unearthed letters on the subject, and I thought that was a great addition to the story. The way he incorporated Peggy Eaton’s memoirs and letters was fantastic. If nothing else, Meacham’s telling and analysis of the Petticoat War is worth reading.

In the end, though, I do think too much focus was put on Andrew Jackson Donelson, one of Jackson’s nephews and wards. Though Jackson was indeed the central figure, he didn’t really feel like the “protagonist” of the book as much as Andrew and Emily Donelson. I think this can be attributed to the new documents Meacham had access to (some of Andrew and Emily’s letters), but I still thought the book was somewhat scattered because of this.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones (because let’s be honest, I loved it despite all the above complaints)

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Oops I think I spoiled everything above.

Except guess what? I read the author’s notes, and my main man Remini helped edit. In 2008, I think there was no other choice. Mwahahaha! I knew you couldn’t leave that dude out!

Next week:

Another character/person in Andrew Jackson’s life that doesn’t get enough credit is freaking Martin Van Buren. Next week, I’ll try to do him a little bit of justice as I read Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party.

Which was written by Remini, btw.

 

Book Review: A Being So Gentle

Let’s be honest – this is a great book to read for Andrew Jackson’s birthday, because there was nothing and no one Jackson obsessed over more than his wife, Rachel. Rachel Jackson was extremely influential as a First Lady even though she didn’t live long enough to wield that title properly, and this is the first legit biography I’ve seen of her. I already know the love story of Rachel and Andrew is NUTS, so this is gon’ be gud.

The Book

51qsr2bcvtslA Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson
Author: Patricia Brady
2011
Amazon Link

Last year for March, I read the definitive Robert Remini biographical trilogy on Andrew Jackson. This year, I’m branching out a bit more and looking at a couple people associated with his presidency. Rachel Jackson was incredibly important to Andrew, and she should have been more important to the people he killed in defense of her virtue and honor. She was a quick-witted lady and skilled with running her husband’s plantation (God knows Jackson wasn’t terribly good at keeping money in his pockets), and she’s very underestimated in terms of historical importance.

A biography of her is inevitably going to be hard to write, though, because most of her writings were destroyed in a tragic house fire that occurred years after her death. Moreso than other ladies of her era, she must be discovered through secondary sources and other people’s eyes. That’s part of why I’m excited to see what historian Patricia Brady was able to dredge up.

Non-Spoiler Review

I was very pleased with how Brady teased Rachel out of the few surviving documents about Rachel. She did have to make a lot of suppositions based off what other people said about her in letters or based off some of the letters Andrew Jackson apparently wrote in response to her lost writings.

One thing I was interested in was how far the both of them went in order to please the other. It is apparent that Andrew Jackson’s absences from home in order to murder the British and the Indians distressed his wife, but she also wrote letters and sent out dispatches to preserve his character while he was out. Unlike a lot of men (especially wealthy ones at the time), it seems Jackson did not abandon his wife for mistresses due to old age, weight, or unstylishness (because she worked the farm, she was tanned, at the time a big no-no).

Brady did a pretty good job teasing the life of a very reclusive person from the shadows of her husband’s popularity. Even so, it was very apparent that little direct information about Rachel survives, and much of the story was told with her husband in mind.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I don’t think there’s much spoilers to be had in a historical book. I will say, however, that a few passages delighted me.

One was the passage in which Brady spoke of evidence the Jacksons were seeking fertility advice. That wasn’t something you really spoke of in those days, and the fact Jackson himself bought the books shows the level of distress they – and probably Rachel, especially – had over their childlessness.

Another interesting tidbit was about Andrew Jackson’s feud with John Sevier in the early 1800’s. This book had the added story about how Rachel didn’t want him to fulfill his duties as judge in eastern Tennessee, Sevier’s stronghold, but he went anyway and got very sick. A man came to warn him about a posse set to tar and feather Andrew. He advised Andrew to lock his door and hold up. Andrew got out of bed, went outside, and threatened the crowd which subsequently dispersed.

The book went into detail about how worried Rachel got over this issue, and it was intriguing how involved she was with Andrew’s exploits. He often wrote to her in pretty gruesome detail about all the murdering, and she’d reply with, “Oh, I love you, stay safe, I’ll pray for you,” and stuff like that.  

I found their loyalty endearing.

Next week:

I am excited to say my library FINALLY got a copy of American Lion, which is famous because it was written by John Meacham. I doubt it’s as thorough as Remini’s definitive work, but it’s an extremely popular and more modern analysis of Jackson! Stick around to see if I like that!

 

Book Review: Mockingjay

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51zkheo7x8lCatching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
2010
Amazon Link

The first book, The Hunger Games, outperformed my expectations. The second book, Catching Fire, was somewhat interesting, but it felt like a repeat of the first book. I’m hoping this addition to the trilogy adds something new, but I don’t see how that’s going to happen and be successful. I don’t think Katniss is good enough at pushing the plot forward for her to be active in the last book.

Non-Spoiler Review

I will give this book one thing: it wasn’t a repeat of the first book. I didn’t like how book 2 was basically the same as book 1, so I’m glad Collins didn’t just have another Hunger Game for Katniss to finish.

That being said, I can’t believe how disappointed I was with this book.

I don’t think a civil war/rebellion was a bad direction to take the plot. The problem I had was that Katniss’s ability to influence events at the same time that she always discovered information after everyone else made this book feel a bit unreal. For example, early in the book she’s asked to be the “Mockingjay,” the symbol of the rebellion. She doesn’t know what to do until Prim (the younger sister) tells her to make demands in return for being the Mockingjay. She didn’t make the decision herself, just like every other event in the book.

I also had major issues with Katniss being ‘the best shot’ as opposed to people who were soldiers for their entire lives. I had issues with Katniss bringing down bombers with a bow and arrow, no matter her skill or specialness of the arrows. I had issues with the supply chain mechanics of District 13’s total war machine, but I understand few people study that kind of war strategy.

Overall, the problem I had with the book was lack of any semblance of believability. I think it almost pulled its rather ambitious premise off and almost seemed hardcore, but then it would defeat itself by doing something far beyond unbelievable.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

2 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Ok, I’m going to talk about the very end here.

First off, I agree that President Coin wasn’t that great a person, and she was somewhat power hungry. Her desire to reinstate the Hunger Games one last time was a bloodthirsty move, but Katnis agreed to it. Then she shot President Coin instead of Snow.

WTF?! That was such a letdown. It seemed to me that she made an incredibly destructive decision, and I can’t bring myself to believe the rebellion was able to hold itself together after coin’s death.

Then there was the epilogue. For three books, Katniss was bound and determined never to have kids in the crappy, post-apocalypse world. In the end, she talked about her PTSD-induced marriage to Peeta (which I didn’t really like, after what happened to Peeta) and her children. It just felt so disjointed, sort of like the Mass Effect Blue Ending.

Also also, I found out that the Capitol was probably supposed to be Salt Lake City, which indicates to me the author intended them to be Mormons. I found that a wee bit religionist (is that a word?).

Next week:

It’s March next week – if you were around for last March, you might be able to guess what those books are going to be about!

Book Review: Catching Fire

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51tk519fuhlCatching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
2010
Amazon Link

The first book, The Hunger Games, was perfectly ok. It outperformed my expectations, though I found some of the word choices and style a little stifling. What I’m looking forward to with this book is the relationship with Gail and Peeta. I also don’t have any idea what’s going to happen – after the first book, what can the characters do that will be even half as exciting? Now that the games are over, how can Collins come up with something that will even come close to as heart-pounding?  Since the series was so popular, I have to think there’s a surprise waiting for me!

Non-Spoiler Review

We still have too many instances of the words “blood” and “roast,” but stuff like that isn’t enough to keep me from reading. Collins’s style isn’t my favorite, but she does very cleverly get into Katniss’s head and uses her first person narrator well.

However, this book wasn’t nearly as exciting, sensible, or creative as the first one. A lot of time is spent establishing why Katniss is (spoiler for the first book) now considered a rebel for her act of eating the berries at the end of The Hunger Games. I didn’t think her act all that treasonous, and even more so I thought the Capitol’s response to her actions altogether ridiculous. Similar to the first book, as well, Katniss is often the last person to find out about conspiracies and problems at which she is the center, and it just doesn’t feel reasonable. The first book could get the benefit of the doubt because 1) It’s YA, and some melodrama is excusable 2) Katniss was literally ripped from obscurity and put in the spotlight 3) It was pretty exciting. This book didn’t have 2 and 3 going for it, so the entire problem felt out of place to me.

If I ignore the premise’s unlikelihood and the melodrama of it all, I suppose the book was “Ok.” I wouldn’t tell someone they were wrong for enjoying it, and I’d still say continuing the series after book one isn’t a complete waste of your time. Similarly, I’d also assert that you don’t need to continue if you don’t want to.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Too quickly, I found out what happened between Katniss and Gail after the games: a fairly contrived idea of rebellion forces Katniss toward Peeta, and Gail is just ‘far away’ now. It was a disappointingly quick resolution to what I thought was the only exciting thing remaining unfinished from book 1. There was some more development, but it felt forced and Katniss didn’t really have much say in whether she chose Peeta or Gail.

Next… was this plot basically a dumb repeat of the first plot? Katniss and Peeta are thrown into the arena then defy the capitol by defeating their games. It’s kind of nutty, really. The idea that all the victors are thrown back into the arena for the quarter quell was silly in the first place (as was the explanation that it was all a plan to kill Katniss). The idea that so many competitors were in on a plan that Hamich, the coach, failed to tell Katniss about? Ludicrous.

I would say this was a terrible book, but it still had some elements of tension even if they felt really contrived. I don’t have high hopes for Mockingjay, though.

Next week:

I will finish this series next week as I read Mockingjay. Stay tuned to see how it goes!

Book Review: The Hunger Games

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51fpao2bjxlThe Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
2008
Amazon Link

I have never read this series because I’ve always found the premise of televised child murder to be an unlikely future for pretty much any current society, much less the future of America. I guess other people would disagree with me, but that’s the way my dice rolled.

Even so, it’s critically acclaimed, there are movies (which I haven’t seen), and I suppose it’s relevant to a modern audience. Let’s see what’s inside!

Non-Spoiler Review

I will admit that this was a fun read. I’m not sure I liked the juxtaposition of clearly YA-characters beside brutally murdered 12-year-olds, but I can also see myself finding the book edgy and “real” if I were a teen. So it probably fits a YA audience well, but parents might want to think about letting an advanced 9 year old read it without guidance or discussion.  

Anyway, I thought the pacing was excellent. The chapters left me hanging perfectly such that I wanted to keep going and find out what happened. I thought Katniss’s struggles were compelling, even if naggingly contrived.

I even think the touches of romance were well done. While I will say more in the spoilers, just know for now that I am VERY picky about my romance in books.

Lastly, my beefs with the book. I still think the premise is crazy, but if I could put that behind me, it was worth the time I spent reading. Collins also used a lot of weird word choices repeatedly, like ‘roast,’ and I kept getting drawn out of the immersion because of this. Finally, some of the plot points felt contrived, and the final solution felt too easy.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I’m going to shock some of you: I thought the romance subplot in this book was good.

Honestly, I kind of want to know how things go with Katniss and Gale when she gets back home.  Her experience with Peeta was harrowing, and now they share a bond which can’t be simulated otherwise.  Katniss pretended to love Peeta in order to eke gifts from sponsors and viewers, so the entire nation thinks they’re in love, further complicating matters.  However, Gale has much more history with Katniss, and he’s shown a long-term devotion.  I actually liked this subplot, which is very unusual for me.

Lastly, I’d like to complain about the contrivance concerning the ‘rule change.’  During the middle of the games, the announcer declared 2 people could win the Hunger Games if they were from the same district.  Then, right at the end, when Katniss and Peeta had won, they revoked this rule change.  Katniss and Peeta decided to commit suicide simultaneously.

Honestly, what did the game makers expect?  Force the competitors to work together, then suddenly pull the rug out from under them?  I felt like this change right at the end was such fake BS, invented just so Katniss could ‘insult’ the capitol.

Still, overall, I’d say my complaints are weak sauce.  I definitely intend to finish this series, now.

Next week:

I’m reading the second book in this series, Catching Fire.

Reading List – February 2020

I like to read series because it give a feeling of true accomplishment. For my first series this year, I’m reading Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy.

The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins

You may be surprised I hadn’t read these books already. As they are post-apocalyptic science fiction and some of the most popular books of the last couple decades, they seem to have pretty widespread appeal and cultural influence.

So I thought I should read them, regardless of how good they may or may not be. My friends who’ve read the first book all liked it, but I haven’t found many people who say much of anything about the second book and nothing good about the third book.

So let’s get this started!

Divider

Do you write books and sell them in a non-sketchy fashion, such as through Amazon? If so, shoot me a line – I would love to read your book!  If I choose your book, I will always purchase it since I do not want to be beholden to the author when I leave reviews.

See my old reviews here

Book Review: Clara

I found this book on Twitter and downloaded this first in the series for free from the author’s website. The Bookfunnel method she uses is legitimate (if you trust someone as sketchy as me to tell you the truth). You can go get this sucker now!

The Book

clara-fjm_thumbnail_200x300Clara (Stories of Lorst, Book 1)
Author: Suzanna J. Linton
2013
Website/Bookfunnel Link

This is an epic high fantasy about a woman who is mute. That alone interested me because there’s not many books about people with disabilities, and muteness seems like a difficult one to portray.

Also, author’s from that other, crazy Carolina (South Carolina), so I thought I needed to do some Carolina represent!

Non-Spoiler Review

Overall, I have really weird feelings about this book. First, there was nothing that I found actually wrong about it. The writing was good and consistent over a massive number of words, and it keeps moving along well.  The characters were also well done. There was absolutely nothing I could point out as to why someone shouldn’t like this book.

At the same time, I could never find myself entirely interested, and I took way more and longer breaks than I felt like I should have.

I think the problem for me was that it didn’t quite hit the genre that I like. It had a significant romance element that I didn’t expect, and I think I kept wanting it to turn into an intense political intrigue or war story when that simply wasn’t the context the book was supposed to have. There was intrigue and war, but that didn’t seem to be the primary focus or the driver of interest.

Another thing that I look for in books is a main character that does things, not a main character that things happen to. Clara’s life is filled with adventure, but for the vast majority of the book her agency is extremely limited and other characters drive most of the plot. As a result, those who like more character driven stories are probably going to like this more.

So, overall, I’d definitely give this a read if you like indie books and character driven stories. It’s well done, consistent, and the premises are sound.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

As mentioned earlier, I thought the plot was driven by side characters. Emmerich, Gavin, and Asher all decided what to do, and they pushed and pulled Clara around to commit what they wanted. Granted, her powers of seeing the future were important, but rarely effective for her. They usually saw events for the powerful men in her life.

The overall plot – beyond the falling in love bits – was about Marduk and the stolen throne that Emmerich is trying to get back. Emmerich plans the war, leads the rebellion, and is the charismatic center of the book. He makes a good deuterotagonist and male love interest/lead, but he also seemed to be the main driver of the plot. To me, that left the book somewhat lacking, but it added a romantic element that would have been entirely absent had he been the main character.

One thing that was very well done, however, was the tension about who Clara was going to choose. Would it be Gavin? Emmerich? Which king was the pretender, and whose army was actually working for good? Clara was a good unreliable narrator in this respect.

If you prefer romance, however, I’d encourage you to check this book out and give it a try.

Next week:

Whaaat, it’s going to be February soon!? That’s nuts! Stick around!

Book Review: What Words May Come

Kevin’s blog is a wonderful place to just chill out and bask in an ever-changing feed of poetry, pictures, and little stories.

The Book

41lpbrmcfsl._sx322_bo1204203200_

What Words May Come
Author: Kevin D. Parish
2019
Amazon Link

Kevin Parish runs a great blog/website where he talked about this book and its imminent publication last year. His announcement included notice that the first copy went to his mom which, due to my own sensibilities, was a big deal to me. So, after effusive feelings and impulse decisions (not that I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise), I’m looking forward to this collection!

Non-Spoiler Review

One of the best parts about this book was that it was thematically on-point and stayed focused the entire time. Though Parish explored many facets of personal faith – from doubt and sacrifice to joy and friendship – the poetry did remain on the topic of a Christian faith journey throughout. I liked this because when I read each poem (I tended to read one or two a day), I had a fair idea of where each was going and what sort of poem I could expect. At the same time, there was enough variety in style and rhythm that I never felt like it was droning on and on.

As well, I found the order of the poems interesting. Even though it seems Parish put them in A-Z order, the opening with “A Blank Piece of Paper” was perfect, and each poem after seemed to build on the last. Was it a happy accident of having such tight theme? Maybe.

Downsides are relatively few. Probably the big one is that I don’t think it would be suitable for a non-Christian who feels either animosity towards or disinterest in the Christian faith. Parish is in no way insulting or overbearing, but the connection between his poetry and faith is ever-present, and this may make some readers uncomfortable if they’re unprepared and not interested.

The other downside is that the book is short, but the price is higher than I would expect. It was worth it for me because I definitely wanted to read Kevin’s book, but I did blink at it a few times and think about how I could have bought 2 other indie books (much longer ones) for the same price. While I have no doubt that he put in the work and deserves the boost, it did seem a bit off to me.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Like I usually do with collections, I will choose 3 poems to talk about more specifically. My favorite, one that sticks out from the rest, and my least favorite.

Favorite: Sparrows
So, part of this being my favorite is my liking of Matthew 6:26, which this poem clearly invokes. It also clearly references other natural imagery in the bible, such as the deer in Song of Solomon 2:9, and the rainbow of Genesis 9. The short poem does, in fact, mirror a lot of the feeling of Song of Solomon in its love-like admiration, but it invokes the feelings of significance from Matthew and the commitment of Genesis. At the end, he wraps it into Jesus’s sacrifice, keeping the package tight. It’s just an all-around great poem, in my opinion. ***None of this analysis was confirmed with the author as intentional, so you may want to check the comments and see if I’m way off base.***

Standout: Mary
So, as a Baptist born, raised, and spanked in the South, anything that starts off with “Mary” screams of papism. And we know what that means.

Either way, I thought this poem was filled with complexity – such as a fear of being young and pregnant, of actually being the mother of God (wow) – that I have to give it applause. This wasn’t what I expected from a super-Christian take on things, but it fits perfectly into the theme and feel of the collection.

Least Favorite: S.A.V.I.O.R.
I just dislike acrostic poetry pretty much across the board. When I realized this was an acrostic, I just kind of coughed and plowed through. Sorry to everyone who wanted me to give you something more vivid and useful.

Next week:

I’ve got an exciting new book from an author the WP world here may not have seen yet: S.J. Linton’s Clara! Stay tuned for that!