Flash Fiction: Catching Sunshine by Erica Ruhe

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It had been seven days since the cave in. Two thin and bloodied hands, fingers peeled raw from days of scratching at the immovable rock, protruded through a small crack above the boulder. Autumn sunshine warmed Camille’s battered palms. Her eyes closed to enjoy the sensation and she rested her head on her arm. Inside the abandoned mine, it was black and cold but just beyond two tons of fallen mountainside there was light. There was life.

“Camille…”

She turned to the weak call.

“I’m here, Ana,” she replied and climbed down the incline of loose gravel. She stepped over the rail tracks and knelt beside her friend, breathing hard from the small exertion. Anastasia did not move, as if the flat of her back had become rooted to the floor. Camille tucked Ana’s exposed arm back under her burgundy coat blanket.

“I caught you some sunshine,” she said and placed her palms on Ana’s cold, dirt-streaked cheeks. Her friend’s chapped lips closed, her throat squeezing down nothing more than dry, dusty air. Licking morning dew from the exposed rocks day after day had not been enough to sustain them.

“Warm…” Ana croaked.

Their breath rasped loud in their suffocating confines. They spoke barely above whispers, their vocal cords strained and silenced days ago from the endless hours of screaming for help.

Ana cracked open her eyes.

“Do you think they’ll…ever find us?”

A tear trembled on the ledge of her sharpened cheekbone. Her skin had shrunk around her already slender body. Camille moved a palm to Ana’s forehead and the other to her chest, absorbing fresh chill from her skin.

“Yes,” she gave a weak nod. “One day.”

Crevices of dirt around Ana’s eyes deepened in question and the tear plummeted to the waves of her matted braid. Camille lightened the weight of concern in her expression.

“One day, we’ll be someone’s archeological find. We’ll be a treasure unearthed in a thousand years. They’ll discover our bodies, arms embraced around each other, and they will mourn for our unknown lives. They’ll make up histories for us and give us pretty new names.”

Camille stroked her thumb along the blood caked on Ana’s brow.

“They’ll lovingly preserve our bones in a life-size diorama and we will become an exhibit in their museum of ancient history. We’ll be enshrined in glass and admired by millions. We’ll live forever, Ana.”

“You’re so…dramatic.”

A smile tinted Ana’s words but it was too weak to reach her lips. Camille coughed and lowered her head to Ana’s shoulder, snuggling under the torn coat. Ana sighed.

“At least you have…a sweetheart to mourn you, Camille. I’ve never even had my first kiss yet. I never…dreamed that I would die without my first kiss.”

“A first kiss can be a horrid thing, Ana,” Camille teased. “Peter nearly drowned me.”

The girls shared a frail giggle. Ana closed her eyes again.

“Oh, the people I would have loved. The places…I would have traveled to. Perhaps our spirits will escape from this tomb. One day…”

Camille nestled closer.

“Perhaps a small sparrow will find us first,” Camille continued, adrift on Ana’s thoughts. “Perhaps she’ll leave behind dandelions on our chests and as we decompose, the seeds will catch just enough sun and dew to sprout and flower out of us.”

She twisted a loose buckhorn button.

“Perhaps the wind will carry our fragmented bodies back out to the wild. It will be spring, warm and bright. We’ll float over the mountain meadows and along the rushing rivers of melted snow. We’ll float over our town and look down upon our aging families. And we will sweep past their ears and whisper “we love you so very much but we cannot stay” and somehow they’ll know it is us and it will bring them happiness.”

She sniffled.

“We’ll live on as memories. Then the wind will take us again and we’ll be free.”

Camille lifted her head.

“Ana?”

Only stillness.

“Ana?”

She shook her friend’s shoulder but Ana’s expression did not move. There was no breath in her mouth. Her chest did not rise. Camille tried to hold down the rising emotion in her throat but her grief, unlike everything else in the darkened mine, could not be contained. Soft sobs choked her. Tears carved deep ravines through the dirt on her face revealing clean, frigid skin beneath.

Exhausted, Camille watched the last ray of the afternoon seep across the toes of Ana’s boots. She lifted her hand to the sunlight and let the dust motes waltz and twirl between her flayed fingers.

“We’ll live forever, Ana.”

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5 Horror Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2020

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CANDYMAN

A “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 horror film ‘Candyman’ that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began. It’s gonna be produced by Jordan Peele and Tony Todd is reprising the titular role of Candyman, so I have high hopes for this one.

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MORBIUS

Biochemist Michael Morbius tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease, but he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism instead. Played by true-life Jared Leto (the man doesn’t age!).

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FRIDAY THE 13th

LeBron James of all people is actually going to be producing this remake. He claims to have always been a fan of the franchise, so I hope that he does a better job than the previous remake that was made a couple of years ago.

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FEAR STREET TRILOGY

A murder mystery shakes up the town of Shadyside, Ohio. Feature adaptation of R.L. Stine’s book series. As a huge fan of R.L. Stine and the Fear Street series, I am incredibly thrilled about this and can’t wait to see what they cook up since there are so many books in the series!

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SAW

A re-imagining of the franchise produced this time by Chris Rock. He says he’s a huge fan, again, I hope him being a fan means that he will do the franchise justice. But I really am looking forward to seeing Samuel L. Jackson in this project too.

What horror movies are you looking forward to? How do you feel about some of the remakes?

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Book Review: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

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Before, I was a million things. Now I’m only one. The Burned Girl.

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Order on Amazon

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $16.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary

Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn’t need a mirror to know what she looks like–she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her.

A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be “normal” again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends–no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever.

But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn’t afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she’s going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.

Grade: A+

Review:

Ava’s story is both heartbreaking and uplifting. After becoming severely disfigured by a house fire, she not only has lost both of her parents and cousin but also her face. Or at least what her face used to be. For months, Ava fights for her life as she undergoes surgery after surgery but once she’s deemed healthy enough to leave the hospital, her aunt and uncle think it’s time to transition back into high school. But Ava doesn’t think she can survive high school with the face she has. That is until she meets Piper, a fellow survivor with a spitfire personality.

It’s rare when the characters in a book feel so real to me. But Ava and Piper were incredibly real, and the situations they found themselves in were also real for their circumstances. There were so many heartbreaking moments in the book, but it was also very hopeful. It wasn’t all about despair, as it easily could have been considering the topic. Instead, Ava realized that she could either wallow in misery her whole life and not live or decide to live again and find purpose in her new life with her new friends and support group.

I loved how each character was their own person, and that even the so-called “mean girls” of the school ultimately had a soul and reached a growth of their own by the end.

I suppose this was the sort of book that I wish it hadn’t ended because I still wanted to read more about Ava and Piper. It’s probably why after completing the book I took a break from the novel-reading and instead focused on reading poetry books instead. Because a part of me still wanted to hold on to Ava and her strong spirit. This book is a must-read for readers of any age, but especially teenagers so that they can learn how you can overcome the worst in life if you have the right people standing by you.

 

Short Q & A With The Author

Why did you select fire as the source of Ava’s disfigurement?

SCARS LIKE WINGS was actually inspired by Marius, a friend of mine, was burned and severely scarred by a house fire as a child in Romania. Now 20, Marius’ story has always inspired and intrigued me, not only because of the power of his tragedy but because he chooses every single day not to let it define him. He has had children run screaming from him. He has had bullies call him Freddy Krueger. I wanted to write a story that would go to these dark, lonely parts of tragedies like his, but also to the beautiful, hopeful parts. As Marius has told me, the only way he survived was because every time he wanted to give up, someone was there, helping him choose to live. I hope Ava’s story can show readers that we all have a choice after a life-changing event: We can choose to be alone, isolated and angry that our normal is gone, or we can let people in and find a new normal, together.

Reading Scars Like Wings it looks like you did a lot of research in burn victims when it comes to the healing process and medical work needed. Did you speak to professionals that help burn victims or did you solely rely on books about the topic?

Oh, definitely! As I wrote this book, I felt heavily the burden of presenting an accurate, respectful representation of the burn survivor community. I spent a lot of time speaking with survivors, reading their stories, talking to doctors about wound care and recovery, and generally immersing myself in the terrible/wonderful/inspirational/reality of being a burn survivor. Learning about the physical and emotional pain of burns was gut-wrenching at times, but I wanted to preset a story that went beyond stereotypes and pity to the reality of what it’s like to live with physical and emotional scars like Ava’s.

I know that Ava hates seeing herself as a survivor, but she is a very inspiring character. The reader can’t help but want to root for her the whole time. When did Ava’s story first come to you (as in inspiration)?

Well, like I mentioned, Marius originally sparked the idea for this story, but the character of Ava took shape slowly as I started researching and drafting. She has some qualities just like Marius, like her thumbs on her hands instead of fingers, and then pieces of other stories that survivors have shared with me. The more I thought about her and wrote about her, the more she became a fully-formed character with interests like Broadway musicals and a personality all her own. I’d love for readers to see Ava this way by the end of the book, as a smart, funny, talented teenager who just happens to also have scars.

As much as Ava is wonderful, Piper is a true scene-stealer. I feel like everyone needs a Piper in their life. Was Piper inspired by someone in particular?

Not really, but I knew from the beginning that Ava needed someone like Piper to draw her out of her shell and remind her that she has a lot of living and loving left to do. Piper’s loud, out-there attitude is a great counterbalance to Ava’s initial belief that her life is over after the fire. Like a lot of people, though, Piper’s bravado is hiding her own pain and struggles. And when she starts to push Ava away, too, we start to see how deep her pain runs. Both girls finally realize that they can have full, happy lives after their trauma, but they can’t ignore the pain, either.

So many YA novels lately are being made into movies or TV series, which actress would you like to see bring Ava to life?

Oh, wouldn’t that be amazing! If I’m being honest, I’d love to see the role of Ava go to a burn survivor. I think it would be so wonderful to see someone who has actually lived a similar storyline portray this recovery journey!

(Editor’s note: I LOVE Erin’s idea of a burn survivor being the one to portray Ava, although if I had to choose an actress, I think Joey King would tackle Ava’s journey well.)

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Shriekfest 2019 – Let Me Hear You Scream!

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Red carpet at Shriekfest

Shriekfest is a bi-annual and bi-coastal horror film festival that takes place both in Los Angeles and Orlando. This was my second time going to Shriekfest and once again it didn’t disappoint! Denise Gossett is the founder of this festival and has been very influential in giving many horror shorts and movies a chance to be seen and discovered by a myriad of people. This year I got to chat a bit with Denise and she’s a very lovely woman and a very busy one since she not only runs Shriekfest but will also appear in a TV series about astronauts very soon.

 

Just like last year, I was able to attend the third day of the festival (Saturday). Luckily, I got right on time to the studios as the first short Finley aired. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE killer dolls in any shape or form, so a killer doll that kinda resembles R.L. Stine’s Slappy? I was ALL OVER THAT. It was by far my favourite short. This year, I noticed that some of the shorts explored some true horrors like domestic violence in short films such as She Fell and Listen. Although, I’ll admit that I preferred She Fell’s feminist message where the abuser gets what he deserves (the new program is very unconventional and effective). The Clapper was a classic horror short about an invalid girl who has to deal with an unknown presence in her house whilst in the dark.

 

The second half of the shorts started off with a bang with The Thing About Beecher’s Gate. A deputy that has recently transferred to the town of Beecher’s Gate, is ordered by the town’s sheriff to spend a night alone in a barn with only a shotgun as a rite of passage. This short was very intriguing and suspenseful. By far, this was my favourite short from the second half of the fest. We Got a Monkey’s Paw was a bit campy but fun. The two actors Jacqueline Jandrell and Zack Ogle had perfect comedic delivery and made the most amusing duo. Naughty was both a fun and twisted film about a little girl who gives a robber a run for his money. Just like last year, we also got to check out a music video. This year it was Aesthetic Perfection’s Gods & Gold, which is a very goth-inspired video with lots of old school vibes with a touch of glam.

 

What differed between last year’s event and this year is that they had a couple of hours reserved for a Meet & Greet. This gave everyone a chance to network, chat, and get some food. Which made watching the second part of the festival a little easier with the break in between. I took that time to explore Raleigh Studios, as it’s very fascinating to be on an actual movie lot studio.

 

I ended up staying for three feature films.

First was the viewing of The Field. A long-empty farmstead holds secret worlds, accidentally unlocked by an amateur photographer and his wife. This movie wasn’t that scary and had more of a sci-fi bent than horror. Initially, I was very intrigued by the premise of Norse witchcraft in the beginning, however, it was never fully explained in the movie why they were doing those rituals. That was what made the film fall short for me.

The second was the viewing of Volition. A man afflicted with clairvoyance tries to change his fate when a series of events leads to a vision of his own imminent murder. I really enjoyed this movie and again, it didn’t quite fit the horror bill for me. It had more a thriller sci-fi feel to it with time leaps and bending time. But it was a very original film that Tony Dean Smith directed, and I can give him props for having one of the most unique films at the festival.

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The third was the viewing of Max Winslow and the House of Secrets. This was one of the few films that actually had a very popular actor, with Chad Michael Murray (from One Tree Hill series and most recently playing an enigmatic cult leader in Riverdale) in the role of eccentric genius billionaire Atticus Virtue. Five teenagers compete to win a mansion owned by Atticus Virtue. To win the teens must face-off against a supercomputer named HAVEN who controls the mansion. The film had Escape Room moments and would be better suited for tweens and teens as it has scary elements but it never gets too bad. None of the main characters face any serious consequences but each character grows within the course of the movie, so at least you get good character arcs. I’d recommend watching this as a family movie more than a classic horror movie.

 

Viewing the movies from 11a.m.-11p.m. was a very intense but fun experience. I appreciate Denise for giving me the opportunity to attend Shriekfest once again! And this time around I managed to snag a tee before they ran out my size (small) since ya know, now I feel like a veteran of the event and all. Here’s looking forward to next year’s 20th anniversary, I’m sure it’s gonna be one hell of a horror ride!

DSC_0045 modified.jpgPhotos by: David Hanger

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Review: Huda Beauty – Liquid Lipstick

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What It Is: Long-lasting liquid lipstick

Verdict: Ever since I’ve started using liquid lipsticks back in 2016, I haven’t been able to go back to a bullet tube anymore. There’s something about liquid lipsticks that just hits the spot for me. They’re smudge-free, don’t bleed, and incredibly long-lasting. What’s not to love? I know some people have issues with their lips drying out but that isn’t something that I’ve had to deal with. So, in the past three years, I’ve tried my fair share of liquid lipsticks. When Allure’s Beauty Box centered on Huda Beauty, I was intrigued. Mostly because I hadn’t tried any of their products up to that point. But I know how much people rave about Huda’s products and how life-changing some of them have been. For this particular Allure Beauty Box, Huda Kattan made a special liquid lipstick hue specifically for this occasion, creating an orange-red shade appropriately named Allure.

Now, I have no qualms over the quality of the liquid lipstick. It is worth all the hype her liquid lipsticks have garnered. It’s long-lasting and it doesn’t bleed. So those are two things that I look for when determining the success factor of a liquid lipstick. However, the shade Allure is terrible for anyone who’s as pale as I am. It isn’t a universal red as I thought it might be. Instead, it’s more of a bold bright orange than red. It’s not very flattering for pale skins, but feel it would be an excellent shade for those who have darker skin and want a red that isn’t on the classic side.

So the product was good but the shade wasn’t. Can’t win them all!

Price: $18

Where To Buy It: https://hudabeauty.com/

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Throwback Thursday: Travel Post – Sicily

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At the piazza in Taormina, Sicily

This month’s Throwback Thursday series is going to be a little different. Usually, in my past ones I revisited old movies or songs, but this time I thought that revisiting a location I hadn’t been to for a while was enough for me to write about it for this series.

I usually try to make it out to Sicily, Italy every two years, but this time I hadn’t been back since 2016. I was in much need of relaxation and to get away for a while, so I took four weeks off of work to head out to Sicily. During my first week there, I met up with fellow Inkblotter, Phoebe who was staying in Catania. We stopped at one of my favourite bars, Prestipino (espresso and baba’ for me and Coke Zero for her).

My second week was spent going to the beach in Giardini Naxos and hanging out in Taormina with my cousin and some friends. During that time I also ate lots of thing that I don’t usually eat in California, such as gelato (sorry, just never have been a fan of American ice cream) and lots and lots of fish.

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View from my bedroom.

In between my third and second week, I decided to spend a few days at my apartment in Catania, where I just decided to sleep and relax. My usual week, while I’m in California, is always jam-packed that I’m always driving seven days a week and I never have time to sleep in, so sleeping in till 10 a.m. was an absolute luxury. Taking a break from driving and traffic felt very liberating and I also decided to unplug during my stay in Catania (no cell phone or internet for almost a week). I spent my days taking walks, eating lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish. At night I would relax with various face masks. It was a very relaxing and nourishing moment for my skin, mind, body, and soul.

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My final week was spent back in Taormina for a few final days of beach and shopping. I didn’t do a whole lot in regards to going out at night, although I occasionally did, I mostly wanted my stay in Sicily to be about recharging, spending time with my family and friends, and above all taking a moment to appreciate the little things in life. Like befriending a couple of feral kitties, or savouring all my favourite dishes.

I really enjoyed my stay in Sicily, and can’t wait to go back. Because as all Sicilians know, no one ever leaves Sicily forever. It’s always a ‘See you later,’ never a farewell.

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Review: Sweet Chef – Beet + Vitamin A Serum Shot

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About The Brand: Sweet Chef mixes the perfect daily shot of vegetables and vitamins to freshly boost your skin’s vitality and deliver a healthy radiance. Quenching your skin has never been so sweet.

What It Does: Refines Pores & Smooths Rough Skin

Active Ingredients:

BEET

Beet harnesses a variety of vitamins that leave skin feeling softer and visibly smoother.

VITAMIN A

Vitamin A is rich in antioxidants that help to minimize signs of aging for a youthful glow.

How To Use: After cleansing and toning, apply serum shot on face with a gentle tapping motion until absorbed. Follow with a moisturizer, if desired.

Verdict: If you’ve been following the blog for a while, then you’ll know of my obsession for Vitamin A and how it helps keep your skin looking radiant. So it’s no surprise that I’d jump at the chance to try out this new Vitamin A serum from Sweet Chef and see how it compares to my favourite Vitamin A serum (that sadly Amazon no longer stocks). The beauty of Vitamin A is that it doesn’t take long to see the benefits. In just of days you’ll notice a much brighter and smoother complexion. The packaging for this completely cute yet very efficient.

I love how this serum feels on my skin, and even after only one night, when I woke up my skin looked considerably better than how it did the night before. This company has various vitamins as serums (also B & C), and I’m sure they’re just as good although they target different skin concerns. You can also make up your own cocktail of sorts, mixing and matching various serums and creams.

Overall, this is an excellent product and I’m looking forward to trying out other skincare products that they have.

Price: $19.99

Where To Buy It: Target

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Poetry: Not Missed If Not Departed

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The bathwater is turning scarlet red.

I wonder what you will think

when you will find me dead.

Never would’ve missed you if you hadn’t left.

Never would’ve loved you if you hadn’t said goodbye.

But very soon you will wonder why,

you abandoned me here to die.

One of these days,

One of these days.

The scent of blood lingers in the room.

Will my death bring you possible doom?

Never would’ve been obsessed if you hadn’t left.

Never would’ve loved you if you hadn’t said goodbye.

But very soon you will wonder why,

you abandoned me here to die.

One of these days,

One of these days.

This scalding blanket of vulnerability

Is giving me more security.

Never would’ve adored you if you hadn’t left.

Never would’ve loved you if you hadn’t said goodbye.

But very soon you will wonder why,

you abandoned me here to die.

One of these days.

One of these days,

You will miss me.

***

Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

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Review: Erno Laszlo New York – Multi Task Eye Serum Mask

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Eye-catching instant results!

A silky, all-in-one hydrogel eye patch formulated with a powerhouse of ingredients to tackle major signs of under eye dark circles, fine lines, and wrinkles.

This multi-tasking eye patch is a high-powered serum infused with algae extract, vitamin B3, and allantoin to deliver immediate results under the eye area.

What It Is: A hydrating eye serum gel mask

What It Does: Hydrates and nourishes the eye area, diminishing dark circles and fine lines

Verdict: It’s not always easy to find an eye mask the truly delivers. Most feel like a waste of time. Others tend to slip off, but this gel mask stays put meaning that you don’t necessarily have to lie down in order to keep it on you. I decided to pop this eye mask in the freezer for a few minutes prior to using it. I think that that truly added an element of extra relaxation. I really loved how the mask felt on my eye area. I left it on for about 30 minutes so all the serum had time to soak into my skin. I really loved how the serum felt on my skin while I had it on. It just felt very soothing and relaxing. When I removed the mask, my under eye area felt incredibly smooth and hydrated. I have hereditary dark under eyes, and this mask truly helped reduce the appearance of it. I used this mask before going to sleep, but I can see how it could also be used to prep the eye for makeup in the morning. This serum would truly make the perfect eye primer for concealer. I suggest you try out this eye mask if you want to pamper under your eyes and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and stress.

Price: $35 (pack of 6)

Where To Buy It: www.ernolaszlo.com

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Book Review: Almost Home by Madisen Kuhn

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A gorgeous poetry and prose collection that explores the meaning of “home” and the profound discovery of finding it within oneself.

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Gallery Books

Price: $14.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

In this stunning third collection from Madisen Kuhn, Madisen eloquently analyzes some of life’s universal themes within the framework of a house. Whether it’s the garden, the bedroom, or the front porch, Madisen takes you into her own “home,” sharing some of the most intimate parts of her life so that you might also, someday, feel free to share some of yours.

Filled with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations from Melody Hansen, this boldly intimate, preternaturally wise, and emotionally candid collection encourages you to consider what home means to you—whether it’s in the lush, green-lawned suburbs or a city apartment—and, more importantly, explores how you can find it even when home feels like it’s on the far-off horizon.

Grade: B+

Review:

For someone like me who has been on the move since I was born, reading a book that explores the meaning of home was very relatable. What’s the difference between a house and a home? And how do you know when one feels just like a house and what makes a home a home? The poetry is very heartfelt and emotional. For some home is a physical place or location, while for others the meaning of home is a person. What makes us feel at home? Ultimately, it’s the place where we feel safe.

One of the most poignant lines was, “I am jealous of what you have but not of who you are. Regardless it withers me.” I’m sure many people have often felt this way, feeling envious of what someone may have but not being particularly keen on the person in question.

Many of the poems explore the meaning of finding a home within a person. I think that we all yearn to feel at home with someone, although oftentimes that is merely a mirage and we’re far lonelier together than when we are alone.

This poetry collection really hits a nerve for me because of my incessant search to feel at home. If you’re a fan of Rupi Kaur or Amanda Lovelace, then this book is for you.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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