Literature Reviews

Review: I Danced With Sorrow by Alicia Wright

I danced with sorrow.png

Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

Title: I Danced With Sorrow

Poet: Alicia Wright

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: “I Danced with Sorrow is a collection of short verse poetry detailing the journey of one girl as she struggles to come to terms with what she has endured. It is split into five sections. Each is centred on a different aspect of her life, tackling various topics such as heartbreak, abuse, and finding liberation through creativity. Some of the main themes included are love, life, death, hope, loss, and the rebuilding of self. I Danced with Sorrow encourages the reader to explore the darker aspects of life, and reminds them that even after the chaos, there is still light.” (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: abuse, family estrangement, bullets, blood, death, low self-esteem, body negativity, sexual imagery, poor mental health, war, one moment of violent sexual imagery, suffocation.

My thoughts

Wright’s debut poetry collection is incredibly immersive; the images, questions, worlds created and explored will stay with you long after you have finished.

And so, you came,

and, unlike words,

you went away.

(Moving Forward, p.67)

Wright’s writing style is fantastical yet authentic. The poetry collection evidently draws from real life experiences, however, I struggled to connect with some of the poems as I felt some of the poems were forced. This is probably just down to personal taste.

I also wish the collection had a content warning as some of the imagery was quite intense. Additionally, I felt some of the typography was a tad random, in particular, the capitalisation at the beginning of each line in some poems, but again, this is down to personal taste.

Nonetheless, some of Wright’s poems hit me hard:

What good is your crown

if it’s made of thorns

and carries the weight of your guilt?

(The Reckoning, p.64)

This poem is so powerful, so much so that I had to stop for a few minutes to absorb it.

But, to bear your words was

to shoulder mountains.

(What Changed Her, p.24)

This is an incredible metaphor. The line conveys the core meaning of the collection: survival. This poem will stay with me for a long time.

Why did I read it?

I received a free copy of I Danced With Sorrow from the author. Thank you Alicia!

Does the poet have other works?

According to Goodreads, sadly not.


An incredibly varied poetry collection that does not let you go. Wright’s writing style is captivating, all of your senses are engaged.

– Melissa Jennings

Have you ever been immersed in a poetry collection?

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Literature Reviews

Review: Letting Go is an Acquired Taste by Christina Hart

letting go is.png

Rating: ★★★ (3 stars)

Title: Letting Go is an Acquired Taste

Poet: Christina Hart

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: “The companion chapbook to the best-selling Empty Hotel Rooms Meant for Us. Rather than holding on to lovers, past and present, this collection of poetry focuses on the art of letting go.” (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: use of the word f*ck and variations of it, loss, being burned, abuse, mention of knives, mention of slicing, description of suffocation, death, mention of drugs, descriptions of erotic dancers, mention of train wreck, mention of noose.

My thoughts

I completely agree with the title, letting go IS an acquired taste. The significance of the title is that the speaker “lets go” of what is holding them back, in this case, people. Regarding the collection, only a few poems managed to stir me, but the majority fell flat for me. I felt that there were too many repetitive statements and phrases throughout, so it felt like I was reading the same poems over and over. But then again, perhaps this collection would impact me more as a spoken word piece. I think the collection’s theme is rather important as “letting go” of things is a particularly tough task to do.

I traced a circle

around the beauty mark

on my thigh,

marking what was still mine.

Some things they can

never take with them,

so if they want to leave,

let them.

– Let Them Leave

This is probably my favourite from the collection. For me, the poem expresses the notion of reclaiming ourselves after a breakup, especially after a physical relationship. The speaker draws the reader attention to a “beauty mark”, which is likely a symbol of their identity and self-worth.

Why did I read it?

There is something bittersweet about the title, so I wanted to see how it connected to its content.

Does the poet have other works?

Christina Hart has written another poetry collection titled Empty Hotel Rooms Meant for Us. Hart has also written fantasy series called The Rosebush Series.


I struggled to connect with some of the poems, but it was still an enjoyable read. If you like honest, clear poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings

Has a poetry collection title stayed with you? Why?

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Literature Reviews

Review: Cold Sober by Theresa Sopko


Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

Title: Cold Sober

Poet: Theresa Sopko

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: “Cold Sober is a delicate and organic collection of poems that chart the journey from scepticism to fulfilment.” (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: intimate relationship

My thoughts

Theresa Sopko’s poetry details the fears of a relationship and observes the small things. The collection is defined as love poetry, but it also delves into the thoughts and feelings of a person in a relationship with someone else, and those thoughts and feelings aren’t always exactly romantic. I related to most of the poetry as fear is a natural human tendency when placed in a vulnerable situation, like a relationship.

Some of Sopko’s lines got to me:

You were mine

I wasn’t yours

In the way I expected of you.

– The Problem With Unspoken Agreements

These lines open Sopko’s poem, and literally, in the first six words, I was destroyed. What a heartbreaking opener. The third line is interesting as it implies an expectation and a different kind of belonging.


Of course I wanted to touch him

I wanted

Some kind of assurance that

He was there

And we were ourselves

And we always would be.

– First Date II

This particular poem was rather haunting. The theme of insecurity is prevalent throughout Sopko’s collection, but here, the speaker is worried that the other person is not real. As previously mentioned, the collection analyses fear, but to elaborate, the fear appears to be rooted in the present – a fear of the end.

Why did I read it?

I was intrigued by the idea of a collection detailing the beginning and the end of a relationship.

Does the poet have other works?

Theresa Sopko has written a novel titled Bewilderments of the Eyes. I’ll be adding that to be my TBR list!


Cold Sober was moving and had some really powerful images and metaphors. If you enjoy love poetry that takes you on a roller-coaster of a journey, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings

What other love poetry collections have you read and enjoyed?

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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

Short Story Review: The Canterville Ghost

the canterville ghost
Illustration by Wallace Goldsmith

This review contains spoilers

Rating: ★★★★☆

Title: The Canterville Ghost

Author: Oscar Wilde

Genre: Gothic short story

Publication Date: 29 May 1887*

Publisher: The Court and Society Review*

Where to buy: The Canterville Ghost

Summary: “This is Oscar Wilde’s tale of the American family moved into a British mansion, Canterville Chase, much to the annoyance its tired ghost. The family — which refuses to believe in him — is in Wilde’s way a commentary on the British nobility of the day — and on the Americans, too.” (Source: Goodreads)

*The short story was originally published in a literary magazine in the 1880’s, however, the edition I read was published in 1997.

The Good

I do not believe in half star ratings, but I was torn between 3 or 4 stars. What made me give this short story 4 full stars was the reversal of a traditional ghost story: the saddening fact that the ghost himself is haunted.

Firstly, I did not expect to enjoy this story; I am not a massive fan of overextended 19th-century descriptions and sentences. But, what I do enjoy is ghost stories that begin with the main characters in denial of the supernatural. I mean, that is just asking for it. 

Oscar Wilde’s short story has some stereotypes, but it seems to aid the storyline. The American family are portrayed as materialistic and have patriotic names, like Washington and Virginia, and because they “come from a modern country”, they do things differently to the English – like not believing in the supernatural.

Nonetheless, after meeting the ghost, the family strangely accept the ghostly presence. This is where the story starts to differ from the traditional plot of a ghost story, the family attempt to thwart the tiresome ghost at any given opportunity, all but one: young Virginia. The purpose of Wilde’s stereotyping of the American family is to reinforce the idea that they have a different kind of thinking and living, compared to what the ghost has endured with the English families across the centuries.

Never, in a brilliant and uninterrupted career of three hundred years, had he been so grossly insulted. (p.34)

In a strange turn of events, the ghost finds himself tormented by the living and we are introduced to his existential, or rather, non-existential, crisis. From here, the story becomes predictable.  However, what I loved about Wilde’s short story was the ghost’s hilarious determination to terrorise the family, especially when he resolved to re-stain the carpet.

Why did I read it?

Gothic is one of the most interesting genres, and because it was in short form, I had to pick it up.

Does the author have other works?

Oscar Wilde has written several works across various genres. Wilde’s works include The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, and An Ideal Husband.


The last few pages were a bit unnecessary and a little frustrating as one little thing was not resolved! Regardless, I still enjoyed it as it was a humorous story in places and incredibly well written by Wilde.

– Melissa Jennings

Literature Reviews

Poetry Review: The Secrets I Keep

tsikRating: ★★★★★

Title: The Secrets I Keep

Author: Alex Casso

Genre: Poetry

Publication Date: 23 May 2017

Publisher: Amazon Kindle

Where to buy: The Secrets I Keep

Summary: “The Secrets I Keep is a poetry collection about mental illness, as well as child abuse and the lingering effects it has.” (Source: Goodreads)

The (I am solid gone) AMAZING


Alex Casso’s words utterly purge you. The operative word being purge; it is not an easy collection to digest, but I managed it in one sitting. I must stress at this point in my review that the topics discussed in Casso’s poetry collection may be triggering to some readers. The topics in question range from child abuse, PTSD, and self-harm.

Casso’s collection is divided into two parts: Dirty Laundry and The Stains. The first section, Dirty Laundry, addresses a person who has contaminated their life through various events, and the second half of the collection, The Stains, is concerned with the things that time has not been able to remove. Casso’s debut collection is possibly the darkest book I have ever read in my life.

Why did I read it?

Many thanks to the author, Alex Casso, for sending me a copy through email as I sadly do not have a Kindle. On a side note, if you don’t have a Kindle and really want to read The Secrets I Keep, drop Alex Casso a line on Twitter @alexecasso AND donate to their Ko-fi account. Indie authors, like Alex, need our support, so get to it.

Does the author have other works?

Alex Casso is releasing another chapbook this year called Love Letters to Nameless. It is due to be released in late August 2017.


With careful selection, Casso articulates truths about surviving pain and abuse. Each poem in the 25-page book has its own bleeding heart right up until the end and their words stay with you. I simply cannot wait to read more of Casso’s intense, dark poetry.

– Melissa Jennings



Literature Reviews

Short Story Review: At the Bay

at the bay katherine mansfieldRating: ★★★☆☆

Title: At the Bay

Author: Katherine Mansfield

Genre: Fiction

Publication Date: Jan. 1922*

Publisher: London Mercury*

Where to buy: At the Bay

Summary: As Mr Burnell leaves for work, the females in his family, such as Linda Burnell, Beryl Burnell and several others begin their own adventures for the day. 

*The short story was originally published in a literary journal in the 1920’s, however, the edition I read was published in 1996

The Good

I truly adore Katherine Mansfield’s descriptions. The early 20th-century short story opens just as morning does – slowly then all at once. Mansfield’s way of intricately describing the waking landscape was beautiful to read. It was amazing how the author described the “very early morning” in various ways, sometimes in the explicit tone of “the grass was blue” or in an implicit manner: “gardens were bowed to the earth with wetness”. The narrator of the short story seemed to immersed in the landscape as they noticed every little detail.

Regarding the narrative, nothing much seemed to happen at all, and that was perhaps Mansfield’s intention, as, at a further look, there are inner workings occurring within the text. There does not appear to be any obvious connection between the characters, and I think that it is a deliberate choice by Mansfield: displaying little erratic moments of life that do not seem to be significant but are in a small way.

I also believe the intended meaning of Mansfield’s title is that the lives of the characters seem to overlap, perhaps like waves on a beach. In addition, there is a parallel between the activities of the women and children and the movement of the ocean; the fact that the tide is out, they can be free and careless, and as the day closes and the tide comes in or ‘comes home’, routine ensues once more as if time has not passed.


Despite Mansfield’s lovely descriptions, the story fell flat for me. It had some interesting moments, an exchange between a young girl and her grandmother, but other than that, I struggled to connect with each character’s perspective of the day.

Why did I read it?

I love stories that are set by the sea or have a reference to the sea in its title.

Does the author have other works?

Katherine Mansfield wrote many short stories, some such as The Garden Party and Bliss.


In a similar style to Anton Chekov, the short story was an interesting character analysis, but I think it is rather dated. I will most likely read Mansfield again as she helped to shape the modernist era in English Literature.

– Melissa Jennings