(Review) Girls Like Us, Poems by Elizabeth Hazen

Publisher and Publication Date: Alan Squire Publishing, an imprint of Santa Fe Writer’s Project, Distributed by IPG. March 1, 2020.
Genre: Poetry.
Pages: 72.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from the publisher, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of poetry, especially female poetry readers.
Rating: Excellent.

Poetic Book Tours link

Amazon link

Girls Like Us is packed with fierce, eloquent, and deeply intelligent poetry focused on female identity and the contradictory personas women are expected to embody. The women in these poems sometimes fear and sometimes knowingly provoke the male gaze. At times, they try to reconcile themselves to the violence that such attentions may bring; at others, they actively defy it. Hazen’s insights into the conflict between desire and wholeness, between self and self-destruction, are harrowing and wise. The predicaments confronted in Girls Like Us are age-old and universal—but in our current era, Hazen’s work has a particular weight, power, and value.

My Thoughts:
Reading this book of poetry provokes me. It reminds me of my experiences of the themes in this book.
In the first poem, “Devices”. Various names are directed at females. For example: “dumb slut,” “frigid bitch,” “chick,” and “skirts.” The poem ends with this line: “We’ve been called so many things that we are not, we startle at the sound of our own names.”
Most females can tell stories of the horrible names used against us to drag us down, belittle us, dehumanize us, and exert some kind of control. These names are often said in an attitude of, “oh, I was just kidding, you take things too seriously.”
Men, not all men, because I’ve had females cat call me too, they all should be ashamed. It is not a way to makes friends. It is not a turn-on. It is not a solid and healthy way for any type of relationship. And, it’s annoying as heck.
As a young girl I wanted to be liked and noticed, but not called-out. I did not want to be abused. Essentially that is what those words do: abuse.
Several other poems resonated with me—they spoke big to my heart.
“Against Resignation”
“Eve at the Stop ‘n’ Shop”
“Lucky Girl”
“Free Fall”

What are the themes running through the poems?
Not knowing who you really are, but desperately want to know.
Hiding and covering up.
Sexuality and being comfortable with it.
Finding our voice.
Transition and growth.
Understanding and expressing emotions.
Submission to something that is later regretted or questioned if a yes was ever given.
Being told “it” is all in our head. No validation.

I made several marks in my copy of this book. It spoke to me. It reminded me of things way back in my past that hang on like a string from my clothing that can’t be pulled off…and if it is pulled what will pull with it?

About the Author:
Elizabeth Hazen
 is a poet, essayist, and teacher. A Maryland native, she came of age in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in the pre-internet, grunge-tinted 1990s, when women were riding the third wave of feminism and fighting the accompanying backlash. She began writing poems when she was in middle school, after a kind-hearted librarian handed her Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. She has been reading and writing poems ever since.

Hazen’s work explores issues of addiction, mental health, and sexual trauma, as well as the restorative power of love and forgiveness. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Alan Squire Publishing released her first book, Chaos Theories, in 2016. Girls Like Us is her second collection. She lives in Baltimore with her family.

Hazen Discusses the Comforts of Poetry in Uncertain Times

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50162841-girls-like-us
Alan Squire Publishing (also available is a SoundCloud Audio reading from her first collection): https://alansquirepublishing.com/book-authors/elizabeth-hazen/

VIDEO: https://drive.google.com/file/d/13eKtAAxyWVythTRwQHt_yirco9WgzZVH/view?usp=sharing

Schedule for the blog tour:
May 4: Musings of a Bookish Kitty (Review)
May 15: Allie Reads (Review)
May 19: the bookworm (Guest Post)
May 26: The Book Lover’s Boudoir (Review)
May 28: Impressions in Ink (Review)
June 2: Vidhya Thakkar (Review)
June 9: Everything Distils Into Reading (Review)
June 11: Read, Write and Life Around It (Review)
June 15: Readaholic Zone (Review)
June 16: Read, Write and Life Around It (Interview – tentative)
June 24: Anthony Avina Blog (Review)
June 26: Anthony Avina Blog (Guest Post)
June 30: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (Review)
July 9: The Book Connection (Review)
July 22: Diary of an Eccentric (Review)
July 7: CelticLady’s Reviews (Spotlight/video)

Giveaway Link:

International Tea Day 2020

Today is International Tea Day. A year ago I would not have noticed this event. I became a serious tea drinker six months ago.
Every morning I make a pot of tea (about three cups.) It is usually loose leaf tea. I make a tea latte using a new item of kitchen equipment I received for Mother’s Day. It is a Breville Milk Café Frother. It heats the milk and froths it. There is two disc choices. My favorite disc will froth most of the milk to a thicker froth with peaks like in a cappuccino. The rest of it will be creamy which I love too. This kitchen item is easy to use!
I am not a connoisseur of tea, but I know what I like and don’t like. I’ve tried several different tea brands and I’ll share them with you. I am not an Amazon affiliate, nor am I compensated for the following information.

My favorite loose leaf tea is from The Steeping Room. It’s a business located in Austin, Texas. This link takes you directly to the tea choices: The Steeping Room. I chatted with a representative from this store. They try to buy all organic, as much organic as possible and certified with no agrochemicals. At least this is their goal. The teas are from the following countries: Taiwan, China, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, Africa, and Columbia. They’ve had big tea sales and I asked if this will continue after the COVID-19 restrictions? Yes, but they are unclear as to what extent the sales will be. Businesses are trying hard to maintain during this rough COVID event. I wish them all the best. The teas I’ve tried and love from The Steeping Room, black teas: Golden Monkey, Golden Langur Assam Blend, Ying Hong #9 Black Tea from Guangdong Province, and 2019 Old Tree Feng Qing Black. I have loved all of the teas mentioned from The Steeping Room, and would have a hard time choosing just one as a favorite. My goal is to try all of their black tea choices.

Other loose leaf teas I’ve tried: Taylor’s of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold Loose Leaf Tea. This is a much cheaper tea, but it is not at all in the same league as The Steeping Room‘s teas.
Stash Tea Double Bergamot Earl Grey Loose Leaf Tea. This is a good tea. I’d place it in 3rd place.
Harney & Sons Black Earl Grey Loose Leaf Tea. This is a very good tea. I’d give this second place just under The Steeping Room‘s teas.

If you are interested in becoming a loose leaf tea drinker there are some items you will need.
•A tea kettle. I have an electric tea kettle, but it doesn’t let me set the temperature. I’ve read that a tea kettle with a temperature setting is important. Hopefully in the future I will have one.
•A spoon to specifically measure the loose leaf tea. An average teaspoon, as we know it, does not correctly measure.
•A tea infuser. You can place this in your cup for individual size tea or place it in a tea pot.
The link is a good deal for buying both. Amazon.
I also purchase supplies at Cost Plus World Market. They have a great selection of tea stuff.
An extra item-a cool gadget I have. It will cover your tea cup to keep it warm. Kitchen Tool Tea Bag.
Another choice is to use a tea filter bag (reminds you of a coffee filter.) This will come in handy for using when you have fine tea. You can use this plus the tea infuser to keep particles from being in your tea you will drink. Melitta Loose Tea Filter.
•A tea pot. You don’t have to spend big money to buy a tea pot. I bought my white one at Target for $14.99.

I use a kitchen timer. Black tea should steep about 5 minutes.
I consider making tea an enjoyable morning ritual.


This handsome little man can be found at Cost Plus World Market

Other teas I love-these are bagged teas:
Most of these teas I’ve found in grocery stores. I’ve provided the Amazon link so you can see their pictures.
Pukka Night Time Tea
Clipper Snore and Peace Tea
Twinnings 100% Pure Black Tea, English Breakfast Decaffeinated
Stash Black Tea, English Breakfast
Stash Moroccan Mint Green Tea
Celestial Seasonings Green Tea Matcha
Twinnings Green Tea Jasmine

An honorable mention from Wholefoods Market:
Organic Rooibos Orange Vanilla Crème Tea  

My go to place to learn about tea is at Oh, How Civilized.  You can also find it on Facebook. Twitter.
Other online sources:
Tea House Times 
The Daily Tea
Tea Efficiency
From WebMD: Types of Tea and their health benefits

Did you know YouTube has a channel for tea drinkers? Afternoon Tea Jazz.


(Review) Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
Publisher and Publication Date: Crossway. 2019.
Genre: Christian nonfiction. Suffering. Lament.
Pages: 224.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Christian readers who are going through suffering.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

Mark Vroegop’s website
And his Facebook page
Author info: Mark Vroegop (MDiv, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary) is the lead pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a conference speaker, a council member with The Gospel Coalition, a trustee of Cedarville University.

Mark’s Twitter page: https://twitter.com/MarkVroegop.

Mark Vroegop’sGoodreads author page.

For more information at the publisher (includes excerpt from chapter one): Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy.

Vroegop explains in the introduction that the aim of Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy is to help the reader know how to lament their sufferings to God. He explains the reasons why lamenting is important and he teaches how we are to lament.

“Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.” Page 26. 

Part 1 Learning to Lament/Psalms of Lament
1. Keep Turning to Prayer/Psalm 77
2. Bring Your Complaints/Psalm 10
3. Ask Boldly/Psalm 22
4. Choose to Trust/Psalm 13
Part 2 Learning from Lament/Lamentations
5. A Broken World and a Holy God/Lamentations 1-2
6. Hope Springs from Truth Rehearsed/Lamentations 3
7. Unearthing Idols/Lamentations 4
8. A Road Map to Grace/Lamentations 5
Part 3 Living with Lament/Personal and Community Applications
9. Making Lament Personal
10. Let Us Lament

The concluding chapters are the conclusion, appendix 1-4, bibliography and indexes.

My Thoughts:
I’m so thankful for authors who write about the hard stuff. I’m thankful for authors who teach it is okay to cry out to God.

What I love about this book: 
Vroegop lets me know from the start: lament is not talked about as it should be in the Christian community. It is a hard topic. It requires transparency. It requires humility to let down our guard and be honest about how we feel to God.
•Lament requires practice. It requires work. Vroegop teaches how to lament.
•Learning to lament is shown in the steps listed in chapter one and expounded on in the book. Vroegop calls it a pattern, and there are four steps in the pattern. He uses the book of Psalms as examples. He emphasizes that “lament is not a simplistic formula.” Lament is a “song” we “sing” to God believing He “will answer and restore.”
Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy is a beautiful book, because it’s a soothing balm for an aching heart.
•I learned several things personally from Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. For example: idols in my life. Waiting is difficult but never a “waste.” God has a plan even during my time of suffering. I’d never considered my lament is a “song I sing.” Lament develops a deeper faith in God.

(Review) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

The Sorcerer's Stone
Publisher and Publication Date: Kindle edition. Pottermore Publishing. 2015. First published in 1997 by Bloomsbury.
Genre: Fiction. Fantasy.
Pages: 322.
Source: Library copy.
Audience: Readers of the Harry Potter stories. Readers who love fantasy fiction.
Rating: Excellent.

Link at Amazon

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is Book #1 in the series.
The other books in the series:
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 
•Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 
•Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 
•Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 

This is the second time I’ve read this book. I’ve not read all of the series, but only the first few.

My granddaughter, Celeste, has all of the books. I began buying them for her when she was just a baby. She adores them.

Book one introduces the main character and hero of the books, Harry Potter. This first book answers the questions of how Harry Potter came to live with people who are not his parents. Other information given is Potter’s personality and what he looks like. And, who his parents are and about his special gift. This first book is important to read, because it is the starting point for the rest of the series. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a must read if you want to understand any of the other books in the series.
An interesting character enters Harry Potter’s life with a huge revelation. This person’s name is Rubeus Hagrid. He tells Potter that he is a wizard; and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This school is for boys and girls ages 11-18. Students must show a gift for magic. Potter’s parents and what happened to him when he was a baby gives him a place at this school.

My Thoughts: 
Since the restrictions began with the Covid-19 I’ve wanted to read fantasy fiction. I plan to read, for the first time, the trilogy of books by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. In the past, I’ve read two books by Tolkien: The Hobbit and The Children of Húrin.
Which brings me to the Harry Potter book: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I’ve just been in the mood for some Harry Potter.

Reasons why I love this story:
•Harry Potter is a kid that’s easy to love. He is imperfect. He lives in a terrible home with people who don’t understand him, they fear him, and they want to change him to something of their creation. He is a kid that I can cheer for. He is a kid that I could be friends with. He is a kid that rises to the obstacles in his life and it doesn’t change his personality but only makes him better.
•He has friends who bring him a better quality of life. They have his back and he has their back. They each bring strengths to the relationship that make them all stronger.
•The good and evil are easy to see. I don’t have to look for them. I don’t have to figure anything out.
•The story is endearing. I love the characters. I love the storyline. I love the closure with the hope and knowledge there will be more books in the series.

(Review) Exploring God Questions With Your Tween by Janelle Alberts and Ingrid Faro

Honest Answers
Publisher and Publication Date: Kregel Publications. March 24, 2020.
Genre: Christian nonfiction. Parents of tweens and teens.
Pages: 224.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from Kregel, I was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: For Christian parents of tweens and teens.
Rating: Excellent.

Link at Amazon 

Link at Kregel Publications for more information.

Link to read an excerpt: Honest Answers.

Author: Janelle Alberts:
ingridJanelle Alberts is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Gifted for Leadership, Relevant, iBelieve.com, and more. She’s committed to taking hard-to-understand Scripture and boiling it down into logical, clear messages readers can relate to. Visit her blog at janellealberts.com.

Author: Ingrid Faro:
FaroIngrid Faro is dean of academic affairs and associate professor of Old Testament at Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois. Her previous work includes a contributed chapter in Divine Suffering: Theology, History, and Church Mission.

Somewhere between “Jesus Loves Me” and high school cynicism, the childlike acceptance of pat answers about faith is lost–often forever. But while many parents find this transitional period daunting, they don’t want their kids to leave the Christian faith just because they didn’t get good answers to how prayer works or whether dinosaurs were on Noah’s ark.

Honest Answers is a discussion book to help parents tackle the God questions that make them sweat. This isn’t the place to come for pat answers that will make their kids nod, smile, and disconnect. Janelle Alberts and Ingrid Faro know that when tweens start asking questions, they’re already old enough to understand the answers. They’re determined to equip parents with the language, theology, permission, and confidence to join in the discussion–and to learn how to offer deeply doctrinal answers in 140 characters or less.

The tween years present an incredible opportunity to build trust with kids and to keep them coming back to their parents for answers rather than finding other sources. With the tools and conversational tips here, mom and dad can engage in a hopeful conversation and help their children build a Christian faith to hold them steady their whole lives.

My Thoughts: 
I love how Alberts and Faro bring a new word to my vocabulary in the introduction. The word is dialegomai. It is a Greek word, meaning to discuss, dispute, or reason. They also give an example of how to bring up the subject about a family time for the topics in this book. And, they remind the parent of why understanding the basics of faith is so important. This set my heart at ease to realize this book is not going to be vague answers to hard questions teens ask or a person of any age might ask. I feel young people are more sophisticated than previous generations. They don’t appreciate a vague answer. They want to know and discuss. They want to feel free to ask hard questions. I’ve worked with young people for several years. I love talking about the hard stuff of life with them. And, if I don’t have an answer, then I tell them I don’t know…that too is important, to express that even adults struggle with hard stuff.
My favorite sections of the book is prayer, creation versus science, and the conclusion section (see quote at the bottom from page 199.)

Reasons why I love this book: 
•I love the layout of the book. For example in each chapter there is a “Parent Primer #1 and #2. For the first chapter, the “Parent Primer #1: We Don’t Have Originals, Yet the Word is Stronger Than Stone.” An average of three pages follow the subjects. Then, “Honest Answers Q&A.” These sections have several questions and brief answers on the subject. In chapter one it’s the Bible, Scripture, or the Word. For chapter one the next primer is a “Parent Primer #2: A Sketch of How the Bible Was Assembled.” Three pages are available to read on this topic. The last section in the chapters is another “Honest Answers Q&A.” The book concludes with “Conclusion” and “Digging Deeper.”
•There are four major sections in the book:
“Part 1-What Does ‘The Bible Tells Me So’ Really Mean?”
“Part 2-What Is Prayer Meant to Do?”
“Part 3-If God Made the World, What’s My Science Teacher Talking About?”
“Part 4-What Is Church Supposed to Look Like?”
Each of these sections have 3 chapters in each.
I feel these 4 sections and chapters are an adequate size (not too heavy for a tween or parent) and they are a solid start to these topics and conversations.
•I feel the book is written in an easy to understand way. Theology can run deep. This is a no stress book.
•There is humor mixed in the narrative. This gives the book a light-hearted feel next to serious topics.
•I love the answer to a question that’s placed on pages 127-128. It’s about how to handle a person on the “science side” who isn’t being nice. I love the answer summed up as-mind our own business.

My favorite quotes:
God does not ask for utter devotion to a written word. He asks for utter devotion to the God of that written word. Page 22.

The greatest thing about unedited, engaging prayer is that it gives God an opening to illustrate to us in personal ways that he is real. Page 91.

We learn from our ancestors that our goal here is not about our kids sustaining a faith so much as it’s about them receiving a faith that sustains them, a God who sustains them, a love that sustains them. Ours is simply to show them a life in faith and also to bolster their knowledge of him in ways that matter and resonate with this generation. Page 199.