Book Review

Bully Love by Patricia Colleen Murphy

Publisher: Press 53, April 2019
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 84
Format: Paperback
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Winner of the 2019 Press 53 Award for Poetry, Patricia Colleen Murphy shares her journey from Ohio to Arizona in her latest book, Bully Love.

The collection offers glimpses into the harsh but beautiful Sonoran Desert, painful but important memories, and an unexpected but powerful love for landscape and people.

Amidst the many life changes—from Ohio twisters to Arizona monsoons, childhood to adulthood, and solitude to love—the poet examines how she finds peace and beauty in spite of hardships, including death and grief, as she leaves a broken home behind to build up a new life.


Although I consider myself to be more of a fiction junkie than anything else, a few poetry collections have found their way onto my bookshelves. Usually these collections sit on my shelves for years as I pick away at them one poem at a time. A poem here during a stressful finals week. A poem there to break up my reading flow during the hot summer months.

Reading Bully Love was a different poetry experience for me as I read it in its entirety (and even reread some of the poems) over a few short hours. I really appreciated the curation of this collection. Although each poem captures a specific scene or memory, they each clearly belong together to explain the poet’s transition from Ohio to Arizona. There’s a contrast between these two different landscapes that’s mirrored in other areas of the book: having parents and being parentless, being alone and finding a companion, remembering childhood and reflecting on adulthood. I think it’s this contrast in both the moments and scenery that tie the poems together and kept me reading.

I found the most haunting—and perhaps most revealing—poem to be “Tell Your Story Walking,” where the poet admits,

There are two ways to tell a story.

When I was fifteen you went mad and I saved you.

When I was fifteen you went mad and I never forgave you.

This collection embraces all of life—both the suffering and happiness it brings—bravely and without being timid. Although Murphy grapples with some difficult topics in many of her poems—such as loss, loneliness, and madness—the poems are still very digestible because of the imagery she couples these topics with. By sharing descriptions of the landscape and those who inhabit it, the poems make reflecting on life’s hardships feel more manageable.

As a fellow Arizonan hiker, I absolutely loved the landscape imagery and was even able to recognize some of the desert locations described. I think the writing brings the Sonoran Desert to life almost as a character of sorts. It was interesting to see how place, especially the desert, is so important to these poems. In fact, many of the poems’ titles are place names, reflecting the importance of the land in these shared memories.

I suspect that I’ll return to this collection soon—if not to read it in full, then to tuck a poem or two away for a stressful week, or a change of pace, or a reminder that unexpected beauty can be found even in hardship.

Book Review

Just for Clicks by Kara McDowell

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing, 2019
Genre: Young Adult Literature
Pages: 343
Format: Paperback
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My Rating: 4.5/5 stars


Though everyone on the Internet thinks Claire Dixon is “life goals,” she isn’t sure how long she can keep having her life on display—but with her mom Ashley’s famous blog and her twin Poppy’s commitment to their social media influence, she doesn’t feel like she has much of a choice.

With viral videos, stolen secrets, and critical choices, Claire navigates how to let herself be “just Claire.” This insightful read follows her journey to recognize that life shouldn’t be “just for clicks,” revealing that under the surface of this teen Internet star’s life is the depth of real emotions and the courage of personal discovery.


Being a twin from Arizona, I expected to relate to this narrative superficially; what I did not expect was to feel so much genuine emotion during what I assumed would be a light read. The heart-wrenching account with discovery of family and oneself felt powerfully real.

I thought that the themes and messages were particularly relevant and poignant. Claire, the narrator, provides an honest look into a high schooler trying to find her own identity through all the likes and texts.

Beyond suggesting that no online profile, no matter how perfect, provides an accurate picture into reality, Claire’s journey explores the choices that each of us as young adults have to make in today’s society, including when to go with family and when to find your own path, when to forgive and when to say no, when to make eye contact, and when to press delete.

For anyone familiar with the experience of high school in the Valley of the Sun, this book will be a treat for its accurate portrayal of Gilbert and the surrounding area. The descriptions are both strikingly beautiful and impressively accurate.

5 Most Readable Coffee Shops in the Valley

There are very few pleasures that rival finding the perfect coffee shop—whether that’s to read, write, convene with pals, or just sip on your favorite order, finding your coffee spot is one of life’s small-but-mighty pleasures. But in my experience, despite having a favorite go-to coffee stop, the place where I want to crack open a new book or thumb through some well-worn pages changes depending on my mood. And you know what, guys? That is okay. So for those of you who are itching to find new spots to read your favorite book, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of the 5 most readable coffee shops in the East Valley. Oh, and don’t worry; I’ve personally tested them all. What can I say? It’s just part of the job.

King Coffee, Tempe, AZ. Located just off of Mill Avenue and University, King Coffee is the perfect spot for those who want to stay close to ASU. Complete with cozy study nooks and tons of seating, you’ll feel right at home as soon as you walk through the bright orange door. And did I mention the coffee? Phe-nom-e-nal. Positively. While everything there is so (so) good, I personally recommend their almond milk lattes. Open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, King Coffee is a must-try; I guarantee it’ll become a household name.

Sozo Coffeehouse, Chandler, AZ. With cozy couches, table seating, crazy-good-coffee, and live music/events scattered throughout the week, Sozo Coffeehouse is an absolute gem of a coffee shop in the Valley. Whether you’re looking to curl up in an armchair with an Agatha Christie detective novel or gather your book club together, Sozo is a most quiet, calming, and inspiring environment. Open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m.-10 p.m., it’s the perfect spot for connecting with a good read or with good friends. You can check out their calendar here for a list of their upcoming events that support local artists.

Royal Coffee Bar, Tempe, AZ. Royal Coffee Bar packs a powerful punch in a bite-sized space. Located just off of ASU’s Tempe campus, it’s a great place to grab a dirty chai between classes while you read those textbooks. Or fun books. Or both, because life is all about balance. Geared towards busy college students, there are plenty of outlets along the coffee bar and even outdoor seating for when the weather isn’t sweltering. They serve their signature European style coffee from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-noon on Saturdays. Family owned and absolutely charming, Royal Coffee Bar will make for an unforgettable coffee experience.

Cartel Coffee Lab, Tempe, AZ. Boasting some truly industrial (and good) vibes, Cartel Coffee Lab’s Tempe location is a mere 10 minute walk from ASU’s campus. Their signature coffee roast delivers a bitter and smooth flavor, making their drinks a lively addition to any current read you bring along. Deceivingly small at first, Cartel’s versatile seating wraps around behind their coffee bar with tables, benches, and just about everything in between. With an effortlessly cool atmosphere, all of you bookworms will feel right at home turning on your headphones and diving headfirst into a good book. Open daily from 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Cartel will become your new favorite hangout.

Black Rock Coffee Bar, AZ. Clocking in at multiple locations around the valley (my personal favorite being Power and Ray!), Black Rock Coffee Bar strikes the perfect balance between edgy and insanely inviting. With strong and smooth coffee that is roasted in-house, everything from their Americanos to their signature Caramel Truffle is truly magnificent. Not only that, but each location offers a great amount of seating at both gorgeous wood tables or comfy leather chairs and couches. Harboring down-to-earth employees and killer playlists, Black Rock is the perfect place to read, study, or make new friends. Each location is open 5 a.m.-9 p.m., so, whether you’re an early riser or an up-all-nighter, Black Rock will never disappoint.

Book Review

The Now Dark Sky, Setting Us All on Fire by Robert Krut

Publisher: Codhill Press, 2019
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 56
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars


Krut’s collection contains three sections: the first two with fourteen poems each and the last one with thirteen. The poems do not necessarily tell a single unified narrative, though they do flow and have a definitively similar tone.

However, it is worth noting that these poems must be read in order to gain a true sense of the collection.

While I cannot claim a perfect understanding of this collection, I can say that the title gives a good indication of the themes, subjects, and images that repeat throughout the collection. The sky is dark “now”, encompasses the immediate value and poignancy of these poems, as well as the action they contain. The striking images of a dark sky setting us on fire illuminates how the natural world has this effect on “us all”, a reminder of a unifying inability to control our own mortality.


When you read a poem, you get a tiny glimpse into the author’s perspective on the poem’s subject filtered through the perception of the poem’s speaker. But when you read a collection of poems, you really get a sense for who the author is, what they feel, and what is on their mind. This poetry collection reveals the mind of a man who has a sharp eye for observation and keen insight into the common experience of human emotions, filtered through startlingly unique and moving imagery.

Krut’s collection surprised me with its portrayals of the world that felt both aptly universal and intensely personal, capturing the essence of the human journey with its yearnings and fears. The most repeated setting, or at least the one that left the deepest impression on me, was the graffitied streets of a city bustling with cabs that was still somehow hollow inside. Krut’s distinctive voice characterized cities and their residents with unique associations that relayed powerful truths.

Though many of the images in Krut’s collection were unsettling, this felt intentional rather than jarring. Each poem had its beauty, albeit an evocative and haunting appeal. My personal favorite, “The Tuning Fork and the Listeners,” was the one that seemed to most aptly characterize the echoing that resounds throughout our world, masterfully applied through the metaphor of song and a tuning fork. Krut’s skill in conveying ideas in a few lines is evident on each page in the collection; the short length is a gift that allows readers to return and glean more insight from the poetry.

Despite the intensity of the imagery and sophisticated writing, I believe high school students and above should be able to understand Krut’s message, or at least, appreciate his thematic and stylistic construction.

Thanks to the author and publisher for providing an ARC in
exchange for this honest and unbiased review.