Sunday Salon: Mini-reviews: Stitches, Horoscopes for the Dead, and The Violets of March

I have a confession to make: I read faster than I review. So I have a stack of books sitting on my desk, just waiting to be reviewed. I rather read than write so I’m posting mini-reviews to assuage some of the blogger guilt that I’m feeling.

Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems

Billy Collins

128 pages

April 5, 2011

Publisher: Random House

Source: Library

I picked up Horoscopes for the Dead for several reasons: a) I’m a judge in the poetry selection of the Indie Lit Awards, b) I enjoy poetry, and c) who can ever get enough of Billy Collins? Sadly this newest volume disappoints. Though several of the poems featured are memorable, many weren’t. I even skimmed a few towards the end. I don’t expect every poem Collins writes to be another “Litany” or “Forgetfulness” but damn; I don’t expect every poem he writes to be published either. If you’re someone who doesn’t read poetry often, I would say this book may not be for you though it’s still accessible. If you’re a fan of Collins (I still am), I think you could still enjoy the gems this volume holds. One of my favorite poems in Horoscopes for the Dead was Feedback:

The woman who wrote from Phoenix

after my reading there

to tell me they were still talking about it

just wrote again

to tell me that they had stopped.

The Violets of March

Sarah Jio

304 pages

April 26, 2011

Publisher: Penguin

Source: Publisher

I read The Violets of March last month and I’m still at a loss of what to say about it. The gist: I loved it. The main character is Emily, a writer whose life is a mess: her last book sold millions and now she has a chronic case of writer’s block plus she’s getting a divorce. On a whim, she decides to visit her great-aunt on Bainbridge Island in Washington. While there she discovers a sixty-year-old diary of a woman named Esther whose own life at the time of the diary’s writing was getting even messier than Emily’s by the minute. Emily has no idea who Esther is or what happens to her. The result is a mystery that twists and turns, leaving the reader guessing all the way until the end. I didn’t want this book to end. If you’re looking for a great read this summer, you can’t go wrong with The Violets of March.

Stitches: A Memoir

David Small

329 pages

September 8, 2009

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.

Source: Personal Library

I have a tug-of-war relationship with this book. I bought when it was first published in 2009 because the author happens to be one of my favorite children’s book illustrators. I devoured this graphic memoir of Small’s childhood in 1950s Detroit. The author’s father was a radiologist, his mother a stay-at-home mom. His family was a family of silence and secrets. David and his brother had no idea what their parents were ever thinking. The author was a sickly child at a time when the medical profession thought that radiation could cure sinus problems. As a teenager David ended up with a huge cancerous mass on his vocal cords and the resulting surgery rendered him speechless for years. David was an outsider in a family filled with outsiders who acted as though they fit in with the world around them.

So the tug-of-war relationship with this book started the first time I read it. There was so much hype around this book that I had huge expectations and the book disappointed a little. After the first reading I gave this book to my library and ended up buying it back from them because I couldn’t bear for someone else to buy it. What? Yes, I know. It sounds weird but that’s the truth. I read Stitches again for the third time earlier this month and I’ve come to see how good this memoir is. Small’s black-and-white drawings are sparse but powerful. The drawings and words come together to convey this perfect story about childhood and loss, psychological damage and family dysfunction. It’s a pretty perfect graphic novel.

The book trailer of Stitches

19 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Mini-reviews: Stitches, Horoscopes for the Dead, and The Violets of March

  1. Ah, yes, I’ve heard very good things about violets! I don’t manage to get to the mini reviews since I tend to have more to say about what I’m reading than I have to read. ;O) I have to remember, often that I should be writing about books and not just writing about book related topics. Also, I’ve had a very busy month and I know that my reading has taken a nose dive as has my blogging. I always envy those who read more than they can blog. Ah, oh well!

  2. I know what you mean about the tug-of-war with Stitches. I wasn’t too impressed with it the first time I read it. There was something missing, something I couldn’t point my finger to. But then I kept thinking about it for long afterwards, and pieces started falling in place. This is the kind of book that becomes stellar to me in retrospection.

  3. I have heard a lot about Stitches and really want to read it, but it’s good to hear another perspective on it. I have heard that some of it is quite graphic, in terms of the story it tells. Great mini-reviews! I just love this format!

  4. I really want to read Stitches as I’ve heard good things about it. The Violets of March sounds interesting so maybe I’ll add it to my TBR list as well. I love mini reviews…it just makes it easy for me to tell if I want to read the books or not :)

  5. I’m soooo bummed to read that Horoscopes for the Dead disappoints! I love Collins and was hoping this would be another gem like Sailing Alone Around the Room.

  6. If I don’t write the review as soon as I finish, I totally forget or get elements confused with other books! But I have to admit it is often difficult to force myself to do it!

  7. How did I miss the news that Billy Collins has a new collection? (This is why I love book bloggers such as yourself.) Sorry to hear “Horoscopes” disappoints. I thought the same about “Ballistics.” Like you, I’m still a fan and will check this out (probably from the library) regardless.

  8. Thank you for giving me more reasons to read Violets. My first reason to want to read it is because I just love the title and the word violet.

  9. Oh no, I am so sorry to hear that Collins’s new collection isn’t as good as his others. I love his poetry and was eagerly awaiting this book. I will check it out just because he’s one of my favorite poets but will try to not get too excited so I won’t be so disappointed.

  10. Thanks for the lovely review of VIOLETS! SO happy that you enjoyed it! My next book, The Bungalow, will be out from Penguin next spring! xo

  11. I’m so glad it’s not just me with a stack of “reviews to write” books on the side of my desk. I really need to spend a whole day and just plough through them lol

    I’m definitely going to check out Violets of March so thanks for the recommendation.

  12. Sometimes hype can really be a detriment to reading. I try not to read anything too soon after all the hype has happened so that I’m not too swayed. But I’m glad you ended up really loving Stitches. Haven’t heard of it but I love the drawings!

  13. Great words on Violets. I must put that on my list. I like mini-reviews best. I think bloggers put their thoughts into the review then instead of regurgitating a book summary. Personal thoughts are what get me to read a recommended book, not a summary.

  14. Stitches is one of those books that’s always at the library when I go, but for some reason I never check it out and read it! I think I have a vague notion that it can’t be that great if it’s never checked out. :p

  15. I’ve heard much good about the Violets of March and I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it too!
    I’m on the waiting list for Stitches at the library, I’m really curious about it.

  16. Stitches is one of the GN’s i picked up at the library today. it’ll be my first time reading it, so i’m really looking forward to it. the drawings look so wonderful at first glance.

    and i love how you were willing to give the book a second and third opportunity to grow on you the way it has. that’s a testament to a good book, in a lot of ways.

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