Review: The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

This long-awaited second collection of poetry by Rupi Kaur made waves; it was a ride brimming with of every kind of emotion imaginable. Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a vibrant and transcendent journey about growth and healing. Ancestry and honoring one’s roots. Expatriation and rising up to find a home within yourself.

Kaur’s voice is as audacious and brave as ever. She nails to perfection the specific intimate details that made her writing so achingly real in milk and honey. We have poems exploring self-love, self-hate, body-image, girls supporting girls, motherly love, feminism, insecurity, sexual assault, and so much more. I read through it in a whirlwind. I barely put it down, and it was so short I didn’t even have to.

The author’s smart, poised, and down-to-earth writing oozes inspiration. And I’m beyond eager to share some of my favorite pieces: The Sun and Her Flowers 1-- bookspoils
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I’ll never grow tired of reading Kaur’s passionate words. And I hope there’s more and more to wait for in the future, regarding her poetry.

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Review: How to Fall in Love with Anyone by Mandy Len Catron

I let the title for this collection of essays fool me for a second there, thinking it would be some self-help junk about the magic of love and all its promises. It’s far from it, actually.

“I hated this way of talking about love, but I caught myself doing it, too. The right choice, the right person, the right kind of love, the one. Was it moral rightness or narrative rightness—a good person or a good story?”

In a series of candid, vulnerable, and wise essays that takes a closer look at what it means to love someone, be loved, and how we present our love to the world, Catron deconstructs her own personal canon of love stories. She delves all the way back to 1944, when her grandparents first met in a coal mining town in Appalachia, to her own dating life as a professor in Vancouver, drawing insights from her fascinating research into the universal psychology, biology, history, and literature of love.

Contrary to my first impression, Catron delves into the realities (not fantasies) of loving and being loved. The harms of romantic comedies in painting an unrealistic view of healthy relationships. (“When I tell people I think love stories make us worse at being in love, they are quick to agree.”) The author’s family history on love, compatibility, and divorce. Plus, there’s an emphasise on making the research inclusive with including LGBTQIA+ relationships.

However, I do have to note that How to Fall in Love with Anyone wasn’t a particularly life-changing read for me, since I was already familiar with the subject of having the media glorifying the concept of love. But it was still fascinating to get to see this blend of memoir and reportage work so well in my favor. My favorite parts by far were when the grandmother and mother were in the mix, talking about their lives and loves. I do still wish that we would’ve gotten to spend more time with those two in the second half.

“As she talked, her life veered from tragic to comic, sounding more like the plot of a good book than a real person’s experience. ”

And a list of other things I appreciated were:

  • The many mentions and recommendations of great books the author read on the topic of love. (I’ve so far added Alain de Botton’s Essays in Love, which I’m eager to get into next.)
  • Another thing I cherished was the many feminist undertones, especially when talking about rom-coms:

“Most of these stories rely on an inherent paradox: True love is the ultimate means of validation and personal transformation, and yet a virtuous woman should never pursue love directly. (Men in persecuted hero roles, on the other hand, are allowed—even expected—to woo their love interests.) Love is the means by which Cinderella and Vivian and Sixteen Candles’s Samantha get what they want: status, wealth, recognition. But these characters are rewarded for not seeking love, for cultivating silent crushes and earnest longing.”

  • Feelings of loneliness and uncertainness.

“I understood how you could leave someone and feel lost without him, and still choose that loneliness over being with him.”

  • The media’s infatuation with kismet aka meet-cutes.

“Maybe instead of telling stories about how we met our partners, we should all share our stories about the limits of love—the times it disappointed us, the apprehensions it couldn’t soothe—and why we chose it anyway, or why we let it go. We don’t need stories to show us how to meet someone—we’ve got apps for that.”

  • And finally the notion of “if you can fall in love with anyone, how do you choose?” and so much more is explored in this book.

All in all: I’m glad I decided to give a chance to How to Fall in Love with Anyone because the combination of learning about love from a scientific perspective with the author’s self-deprecating humor was a win for me. Though, I would like to mention that the notion of experiencing so many breakups over the course of this book was a bit mentally and physically exhausting for me by the end.

3.5/5 stars

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Review: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

“A place is not really a place without a bookstore.”

tumblr_omegnlbzpf1vyjupno10_400The beginning of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry was the most fun I had reading a fiction book since the start of this year. What compelled me to give it a go was seeing this next quote shared online:

“People tell boring lies about politics, God, and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?”

And I’m forevermore grateful because what followed was something I couldn’t have possibly foreseen: I laughed, teared up, cackled, and became super invested in the lives of this incredible cast of characters, both supporting and leading, from Alice Island. The blurb does an excellent job of capturing their defining moments:

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I was drawn to the beginning of this book, thanks to the numerous laugh-out-loud moments where the main character keeps breaking the fourth wall left and right.

“My wife and I,” A.J. replied without thinking. “Oh Christ, I just did that stupid thing where the character forgets that the spouse has died and he accidentally uses ‘we.’ That’s such a cliché. Officer”—he paused to read the cop’s badge—“Lambiase, you and I are characters in a bad novel. Do you know that? How the heck did we end up here? You’re probably thinking to yourself, Poor bastard, and tonight you’ll hug your kids extra tight because that’s what characters in these kinds of novels do. You know the kind of book I’m talking about, right? The kind of hotshot literary fiction that, like, follows some unimportant supporting character for a bit so it looks all Faulkneresque and expansive. Look how the author cares for the little people! The common man! How broad-minded he or she must be! Even your name. Officer Lambiase is the perfect name for a clichéd Massachusetts cop. Are you racist, Lambiase? Because your kind of character ought to be racist.”

This made me throw my head back with laughter. INCREDIBLE.

I went into this book so hesitant because I thought it would read exactly like what the author was making fun of in the above paragraph… But needless to say, I was more than misled. The last time I felt this same amount of surprise was when I finally caved in to watch the film Deadpool (which is the last thing I thought I’d be comparing this book with) and was utterly blown away with its crass and precise humor.

And the same type of wit is used by our main character, the snarky and grumpy A.J. Fikry.

Aside from appreciating the more comical moments, I also enjoyed Gabrielle Zevin’s swift novel for making each chapter feel like a short story. Similar to how the Netflix tv series, Master of None uses each episode to explore a different theme (which I’ll talk about extensively in my May Wrap Up), this book dived into the notions of fatherhood, grief, love, friendship, book people, and so much more.

Plus, A.J. Fikry’s short reviews to his “dear little nerds” interspersed at the start of every new chapter made reading the book that more enjoyable. A.J. always had something noteworthy written down that would make me think for days to come.

“My life is in these books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart.”

This standout of a novel was full of eclectic, charming, mismatched characters with the addition of memorable quotes to ponder (I nearly underlined every other line), and twists and turns at each corner, promising to really do a number on your mind. But at the heart of it all, there’s a quiet allure to this world Zevin created that held me glued to the pages, completely rapt, till I reached that dreaded last page. And to conclude, reading about these lovely nerds, who perfectly get my love for reading, was a comfort for my soul. I feel like this next quote sums up my chance encounter with this read pretty well: “the necessity of encountering stories at precisely the right time in our lives.” I’m beyond grateful that I had the joy to discover The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry.

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!