Literature Reviews

Review: charcoal thunderstorms by Cheyenne Raine

semicolon ; (1).png

Rating: ★★★★

Title: charcoal thunderstorms

Author: Cheyenne Raine

Genre: Poetry

Publication: 2017, Amazon Createspace

Content Warnings: themes of threat, war, death, bodily harm,

Summary: “charcoal thunderstorms is a collection that dances with a more youthful and adventurous escape of poetry. the book has eighty poems divided into five chapters and six short stories and tales. the paperback version allows for the reader to create art within the pages where the poems dwell. there is an art to loving a storm, here is where it begins.” (Source: Goodreads)

My thoughts

*I was given a free PDF copy by the author in exchange for a review. *

charcoal thunderstorms is a wondrous poetry collection. Cheyenne’s aim of the collection is to entice the reader into remembering their childhood and their childhood imagination. As we grow older, we often forget the magic that exists in everyday life, from the sun rising in the morning to the glowing stars in the night sky.

won’t you open the door,

let in a little noise,

a little chaos,

a little bit of everything

you forgot to enjoy?

young & living, p.109

Cheyenne’s collection immerses you in different realities to remind you of what is important. The poetry book is divided into six distinct sections, 5 of which are poetry sections and the sixth and final section contains short stories. My favourite sections were royalty and war, monsters and magic, and wilderness and city. I connected to the majority of Cheyenne’s poems in these sections because I was very much an adventurous child.

i hope you are somewhere

running in a forest,

barefoot, with your wolves

running with wolves, wilderness and city, p.49

I think what is fantastic about Cheyenne’s collection is that everyone will identify with different parts of the collection. However, I struggled to connect to the short stories at the end of the collection, they were lovely to read, but I didn’t know what to take away from them. I did like ‘starting with the sea’ as it had a poetic quality and ocean metaphors are the best!

Why did I read it?

Cheyenne was looking for book bloggers to review this collection, and because I loved their other poetry collection, maroon daydreams, I just had to read the next!

Do I recommend this?

If you enjoy being whisked away to another world or to another time, then this poetry collection is for you.

Does the author have other works?

Cheyenne Raine has written other poetry collections such as maroon daydreams, lavender petals and a wild heart, and One Hundred and One.

Until next time,

Melissa (1)

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Literature Reviews

Review: Semicolon ; by McKayla Debonis

semicolon ;

Rating: ★★★★★

Title: Semicolon ;

Author: McKayla Debonis

Genre: Poetry

Publication, 2017, Amazon Createspace

Content Warnings:  “anxiety, descriptions of panic attacks, sexual abuse/harassment, depression, suicidal tendencies, self-harm, body dysmorphia.” (Source: Author)

Summary: “A Collection of poetry that uncovers the raw and heavy emotions that come with anxiety, trauma, and other experiences.

Part two takes you into the healing, bringing the light, the meditation, the beauty in finding oneself after all the chaos has passed.

& finally, you’re left wanting to start your next chapter; the one that comes after the semicolon.” (Source: Goodreads)

My thoughts

I had the honour of being a beta reader for McKayla’s latest collection, and let me tell you, folks, YOU ARE IN FOR A RIDE. Semicolon is a beautiful poetry collection. Truly. However, do not be mistaken when I say “beautiful”, I do not mean the kind that is pleasing to the eye, I mean the kind that stares right into your soul and wakes you up.

The poetry collection is divided into two sections, or rather two separate “sentences” which are connected by a semicolon. The first section/sentence concerns a painful, numb existence. McKayla’s descriptions are tangible to the point you feel as if you are a spectator. There is haunting imagery throughout the first section, so please make sure to read the content warnings above. There are some poems which just blew me away upon first reading, I just stared at the page in awe. McKayla’s writing comes from a place of truth and that is evident.

i folded each edge seamlessly

carefully crafting my points

hiding myself away from the world

– in perfect creases, p.32

I connected with the majority of McKayla’s poetry. The collection ebbs and flows, just like a sentence. The collection transitions into a much brighter place where you feel yourself being repaired as each poem goes on. You are enchanted and uplifted into this new existence, but also reminded to remember that healing is not linear, that we must always remember to continue after a “semicolon”.

i’m falling back in love with the big heart

inside my chest

– loving myself all over again as if it’s brand new, p.55

This particular line in the second section struck a chord with me. I love this notion of falling in love with yourself and your heart, it is not something society teaches us explicitly. Having read the previous dark section of the book, this particular line felt like the “heart” of the collection. Pun intended!

This collection was so beautiful to read that I had a good cry after it, and some of McKayla’s words have stayed with me long after reading.

Why did I read it?

I loved McKayla’s first collection, Bones in the Garden, so I knew I had to be one of the first to read the latest poetry book!

Do I recommend this?

If you love cathartic, deep poetry, then this is for you. I loved reading this!

Does the author have other works?

YES! McKayla has written another poetry collection which was published earlier this year, titled Bones in the Garden. I reviewed it here.

Until next time,

Melissa (1)

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Literature Reviews

Review: A Scattering by Christopher Reid

a scattering (1)

Rating: ★★★

Title: A Scattering

Author: Christopher Reid

Genre: Poetry

Publication: 2009, Areté

Content Warnings: cancer, death, illness

Summary: “A tribute to the author’s wife consisting of poems written during her final illness and after her death.” (Source: Goodreads)

My thoughts

A Scattering is a stirring poetry collection about the time before, during, and after the author’s wife’s illness. It was quite a short collection, mainly focusing on the author’s grief and loss. It would be reasonable to say that the author was attempting to find meaning in this period of time. Throughout the collection, there is this desperate tone, almost “a scattering of thoughts” as the author captures the small moments in his wife’s illness as well as reflection on their past. Further, the author questions his own identity during and after his wife’s illness.

I’m the riddle to an answer:

I’m an unmarried spouse,

a flesh-and-blood revenant,

my own ghost, inhabitant

of an empty house.

– Conundrum, p.37

The poems were well written. I connected with some of the poems, but the majority of the poems were too personal for me to connect to. I have the utmost respect for the author for sharing their work with the world, especially a work so sensitive. 

There was one line which is a thought I have had myself when dealing with a death of a close family member:

Can’t you now somehow contrive

to be both dead and alive?

– Lucinda’s Way, p.54

Why did I read it?

I came across this poetry book in a second-hand bookstore, its title caught my attention.

Do I recommend this? 

Yes, it is incredibly well written and truly a beautiful read.

Does the author have other works?

Christopher Reid has written other poetry collections such as The Song of Lunch, Expanded Universes, and Nonsense.

Until next time,

Melissa (1)

Have you read A Scattering by Christopher Reid or something similar? If so, what did you think?

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Blog Changes!

book blog changes

Hello readers!

Just to give you all an update – this blog will be going through a few changes.

  1. I will no longer be reviewing live theatre.
  2. This site will no longer be a joint poetry and review blog, it will only be a book blog.
  3. In May 2018, my site name will change (something like “a bookish poet”, but I will alert you all again nearer the time. This is because I previously purchased a personal domain and I can’t change it until then. Boo!!!
  4. I now have an official Melissa Jennings website at for all things poetry! Check there for regular updates!
  5. As university is taking up a lot of my time, there will be fewer reviews being posted. My reviews will be a lot shorter also due to time constraints.

That’s all folks!

– Melissa

Literature Reviews

Review: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide


Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

Title: The Guest Cat

Author: Takashi Hiraide

Genre: Contemporary

Where to buy: The Guest Cat

Summary: A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo; they work at home, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much to say to one another. But one day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. Soon they are buying treats for the cat and enjoying talks about the animal and all its little ways. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife — the days have more light and colour. (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: death, blood.

What I liked…

The central character, Chibi, is the focus of the novella, and the best thing about that, is that Chibi is an adorable, adventurous cat! Takashi Hiraide creates a wonderful little personality in Chibi, whose view of the world inspires interest in a married couple. The couple, in question, live rather dull lives until they meet little Chibi.

“For me, Chibi is a friend with whom I share an understanding, and who just happens to have taken on the form of a cat.” (Chapter 8, p.36)

The story is told from the husband’s perspective, but I particularly liked this poignant comment from his wife who is attached to Chibi. As a cat owner, I identified with this sentiment. Cats or any pets are wonderful presences in our lives, and often we take them granted. The couple’s relationship with Chibi is significant as the cat does not belong to them, but they have a great fondness for Chibi and vice versa.

I also enjoyed the way Hiraide described Chibi playing because I often wonder what goes through my cat’s head when she sees something to pounce on. Do cats see the world differently to us? I think that is the question Hiraide poses to the reader.

Suddenly climbing a tree she would transform herself into lightning. Normally, lightning travels down from the sky, but Chibi ran up.” (Chapter 15, p.68)

There are quite a few references to lightning throughout the novella. I loved this metaphor as it conveyed Chibi’s kittenish personality and energy. Moreover, the latter sentence conveys the idea that Chibi is a supernatural being, that she exists between worlds. This is further confirmed in the story as the cat drifts between two households, the couple and the actual owners.

What I disliked…

There is a lot of information in the book that I was not expecting. I expected a poignant story about a couple’s friendship with a cat, not external historical details which did not impact the narrative in any way.

Why did I read it?

I rarely read books about animals, so I thought I should change it up. I was also intrigued by the title because cats.

Does the author have other works?

While this is Hiraide’s only novella, he has written poetry collections, For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut and Postcards to Donald Evans.


If you like descriptive, poetic short stories about lovely little cats, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings

Literature Reviews

Review: Preparing My Daughter For Rain by Key Ballah


Rating: ★★★ (3 stars)

Title: Preparing My Daughter For Rain

Author: Key Ballah

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Preparing My Daughter For Rain

Summary: A book of lessons dedicated to our daughters and future daughters, on how to survive. (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: mention of scars, mental illness, mention of self-induced vomiting, threat, misandry, racism.

What I liked…

Key Ballah’s title of her poetry collection is incredibly powerful. It immediately establishes the intention and tone of the collection. The cover is an image of a woman and a child, who I am presuming is Key Ballah and her mother, which creates an intimate quality to the poetry.  The poetry collection is divided into four sections: The Body, The Heart, The Land, and the Soul. The names refer to areas that Ballah wishes her future child to nurture in particular, which I found rather beautiful.

I identified with some of Ballah’s poetry, but I identified more with Ballah’s lines – some of them contained worlds and ultimately inspired me!

These are your body politics,

it’s okay not to trust yourself.

(The Body, p.9)

This particular line hit me hard. Ballah articulates mental illness and/or low self-esteem as something that governs us while at the same time tries to gain our trust by deception, or rather unhealthy coping mechanisms.

I carry in my mouth,

all of the words that my mother never

got a chance to speak into me.

(The Land, p.58)

The Land section is my favourite, but this particular opening line stood out to me. Ballah informs the reader that not only has she written the words for her future child, but she has carried her words. Furthermore, Ballah desires to input those words into her child, this is a special type of metaphor called a conduit metaphor. The idea of speaking words into someone articulates that we are containers of thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

What I disliked…

So, I started reading this poetry collection with the idea that it would be feminist due to the title. However, I suddenly became uncomfortable. Ballah begins to discuss that women are beautiful (which I agree that they are), then how “blessed” her daughter is to be a woman.

Moreover, Ballah assumes in this poem that her daughter will be heterosexual.

When he says your name like tidal waves

and kisses you like a midnight in July.

Hold him close,

project your thanks to the heavens,

and find that you’ve been waiting for

in the closeness of your skin.

(The Heart, p.30)

I again understand the intention with this poem, but why not make it gender-neutral as Ballah cannot possibly know the sexuality of her future child. Also, the child may be asexual or aromantic! Why assume anything at all?

Then, Ballah implies that men are lazy for not being able to handle a woman.

I only ever asked him

to love me deeply

and earnestly,

but he still turned around

and said,

that I was too heavy

that I was asking too much,

that he was only one man.

After him I learned,

that sometimes,

it takes two men to do,

the work of one woman.

(The Heart, p.42)

I acknowledge Ballah’s intention with this particular piece, but its impact came across as misandristic.

Next, Ballah draws on a well-known story about Adam and Eve, but states that Adam is an affliction upon Eve:

The bible says,

that Eve’s sin was punished by pain in

child birth

But the older I get and the more that I


It has become clear to me that Eve’s

punishment wasn’t the pain,

her punishment was Adam himself.

(The Heart, p.44)

I find the resolution of the poem a rather radical statement, which comes across as misandristic. Additionally, if you view Eve as women and Adam as men, the poem comes across as really resentful and hostile towards men.

Why did you read it?

I love reading fellow indie poets’ work! The title drew me in.

Does the author have other works? 

Key Ballah has written another poetry collection titled Skin & Sun.


If you enjoy poetry that contains positive affirmations and universal truths, then this is probably for you. However, I think the collection needs revising in certain areas as sometimes, its impact overruled its intention.

– Melissa Jennings