Poem – To One I Admire

To One I Admire

Secretive and humble, a monument
Whose name is torn into cellular winds,
The cycle of birth, death and renewal
You are its most precious fragment,
A ruby glimmer in a globe of your own

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
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Book Review – Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

★ 1.5 Stars

Genre: Romance / Erotica
Publication Date: May 25th, 2011
Publisher: Vintage

Volunteering to read Fifty Shades of Grey is like volunteering to be waterboarded, except with poor writing in lieu of water. Just when you think the torture might be over, another faceful of metaphor slurry and childish dialogue floods into your lungs. You knew what you were in for, and you knew exactly how fun it would be, and yet some irrational seed nudged you into doing it anyway.
In a way, Fifty Shades does succeed at being the ultimate act of sadomasochism. It actively hurts to continue and yet you remain compelled to. This is not so much out of intrigue, as trying to figure out what value anyone could possibly see in the experience. Why was there such a mysticism and phenomena surrounding this chunk of fanfiction? That’s all it is, really, and reading the entire series I imagine would be something akin to spiritual suicide.

At the height of Fifty Shades of Infamy, I saw what I’m pretty sure were middle-schoolers toting copies of this stupid book. Which, by the way, the physical design shocks me. The cover is as aggressively uninteresting as its innards, and looks like an early vanity press churn-out. It has that same plastic, filmy feel and cheap JPEG texture to the design. I couldn’t believe Vintage published this! Their books are typically beautiful. It’s like they were subtly trying to inspire you to avoid it, but were stuck promoting it at the same time.

Fifty Shades of Grey, as you likely already know, revolves around a closet serial killer, Patrick Bate– I mean, Christian Grey, who, in his spare time between being a pompous entrepreneur and being a Criminal Minds villain, seduces a blushing idiot named Anastasia. They get into a relationship that borders on abusive and a series of embarrassing euphemisms ensues. What is supposed to be steamy deflates quickly as it begins to come off as creepy.
The more mundane scenes aren’t much better, full of nonsensical pseudo-economics and a general dull lack of realism I shan’t bother going into, because you might fall asleep on your keyboard. On the other hand, you might accidentally type out a better book than this if you do, so maybe I will…

I am a survivor of Victorian in-joke Irene Iddlesleigh, so in fairness, Fifty Shades is hardly the worst book I’ve ever read. Sure, it’s tedious and insulting, and romance readers deserve better, but it is at least a functional book that humans can read easily using their eyestalks. But that’s a bare essential, not a compliment.
Everything about this novel is boring. “Boring” is the deadliest of the seven book sins. Rarely, the amateurish writing has the good grace to be amusing, especially with the “sex scenes”, which are almost the exact antithesis of sexy, coming off as peculiar, awkward and strangely prudish, despite trying their maximum try-hard level of hardest to be edgy. But mostly, Fifty Shades of Grey is more like Fifty Shades of Brown, because it’s about like watching molasses drip. It’s not even fun to parody, as you’ll notice if you look through the plethora of equally boring parodies that were churned out in its wake. Continue reading “Book Review – Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James”

Featured Releases

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These are the first four entries in my ongoing poetry saga. As always, eBook versions are $3USD or less – several are free, including a PDF version for those without eBook readers. These are available from Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books, and others, and all have a print edition for sale. Feel free to add them to Goodreads if you have an interest in reviewing one later. These make up books zero-through-three and the fourth and fifth should be out this June.

Absolute Heaven Blurb: Absolute Heaven is an omnibus of poems that capture the darkness which hides deep in the mind. Devilishly blurring the lines between romantic hatred and grotesque love, Absolute Heaven is a work of raw emotion, blood and nightmare that spans all genres of horror. Not for the faint of soul or the weak at heart.”

Cosmic Love Blurb: Solemn and dreamlike, Cosmic Love paints a vivid image of love and hurt in the wake of an unknowable future. An infusion of science and magic, heart and mind, this poetry collection rains down its verses like stars. Cosmic Love is nothing short of inspiring with its dark, imaginative romances.

Blood Ballet Blurb: Straight from the dark side of the female experience, this collection is a theatre of blood sprouted from an embryo of prejudice, injustice and mental illness. The poems in Blood Ballet may wear a violent mask, but their core holds a thousand years of women’s heartbreak and pain. Blood Ballet is a social and psychological horror story of murders, witch hunts, self-harm and nightmares – a hidden history brought to the open in honor of those who have had to suffer it in silence.

Infinite Summer Blurb: Infinite Summer is spun with a love that peaks and dies like the sun. Inspired by the dual nature of fairytales, this collection of poems is heavy with magic, ghosts, and memories lost to the golden enchantments of a summer’s day. Infinite Summer is in equal parts haunting and charming, a macabre kind of romance that only an imp’s curse could bring about.

The Book Genres I Don’t Like

At the risk of coming across as one with that title, I am not exactly a literature snob. I don’t care what it is, who wrote it, whether it came out as a mainstream title, indie, or had to be etched on a tome of warlock flesh. I do not care as long as it’s decently written and has visible effort put into it, even if marginal amounts. Transgressive or clean, unorthodox or classic, I like certain things about most types of books.

That being said, there are genres I won’t read and don’t like. There are a handful of exceptions in these genres that I’ve picked up, and I don’t think that they are “worthless” genres. Somebody loves them, or they wouldn’t be written and continuing to sell copies. I just have not acquired the taste for them. There are my opinions, I don’t fault anyone for finding something they love in these genres that I don’t see in them. To each his own.

Splatterpunk
This one pains me on a heartstring level. I adore horror. All of its subgenres, too… except splatterpunk. Splatterpunk is the black sheep (or bloodstained sheep?) of horror to me, I cannot force myself to like it no matter what. If anyone can point me to a quality splatterpunk book, please do! I want to like this subgenre so badly.

I’ve concluded that what I don’t enjoy about it is not the relentless violence, although that is admittedly pretty boring after so much exposure, but the ones I’ve stumbled upon have not been well-written. They read like edgy high-school essays sprinkled copiously with the thesaurus choices for “viscera” and “blood”. One exception is Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, which are decidedly more dark fantasy but have a distinct splatterpunk element and are a good read. In fact, Barker is cited as one of the fathers of the splatterpunk movement, but I suspect this is more for his Hellraiser works. (I liked the first movie, never read the novels.) I think splatterpunk can work when moderated with something else. Like, just describing gore is not going to evoke fear automatically, even in the very sensitive.

Body horror I find unsettling because it creates an “uncanny” effect – it seems human or animal, but it’s neither and your eyes and mind register that. Gore on the other hand is not fundamentally scary, not even in real life. In real life, it’s only scary because you want to get the person whose guts are hanging out to a freaking hospital. What could make that situation horror is if the hospital was an American one and turned them away, intestines in hand, because they didn’t bring their wallet.

Contemporary Romance and Harlequins
I know, I know. True lit snobs always bear an avid hatred for the romance genre. I don’t dislike romance, though. As is the case with splatterpunk, I feel like diluting the genre with some other genre or factor makes it better. As a pure chemical, it ain’t digestible. Like sodium and chloride. Individually, they are dangerous, together they are delicious table salt. Continue reading “The Book Genres I Don’t Like”

Poetry Giveaway – Absolute Heaven

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Absolute Heaven is absolutely free on Amazon Kindle from today until this weekend (May 22-26), if you’re feeling brave for some unadulterated weirdness from the bowels of Hell and beneath. Objectively, this is a very strange book. I birthed this monstrosity, so I don’t really see it as abnormal, but it is really out there and different. So, if that’s your flavor, or if you just want to own the whole collection, pick one up. It’s free in all regions.

Oh, and if you do read it, add it to Goodreads or write a review. It doesn’t have to be anything poignant, lengthy or gushing, just your honest thoughts are appreciated. 🙂

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Book Review – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

★★ 2.5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: March 7th, 2005
Publisher: Vintage Books

“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of the mind.” -Dhammapada

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of those rare cases in which the movie is far, far better than the book. Originally titled These Foolish Things when it was first published, then renamed to coincide with the film adaptation, in the end, I found myself unable to remember much about it, at least that was positive. Promised to me was a fluffy, heart-warming read, not whatever it was I got, this chunky mix of decent bits and excruciating, offensive bits.
There is a pretty notable amount of differences between the two, even the essential plot changes – from two cousins beginning a retirement scheme for English expats in India in the novel to a son trying to rebuild his father’s hotel in the film.

It makes sense to me now why they would rename the book to match the film. The film stands out so well because, besides the amazing sets and soundtrack, it’s written much more sensitively, so that you’ll care about the characters despite their sometimes aggravating quirks. Most of the cast, save for Jean Ainslie, grow as people and shed any hesitations they might’ve had about living in India. The novel begins engagingly, then throws out its character growth as soon as it shows signs of blossom. At first I’d given it three stars, but the more I thought about this, the less I can say I enjoyed it. Continue reading “Book Review – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach”

Cosmic Love Hits #1 in Contemporary Poetry!

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Cosmic Love has since dropped to around #10 or so, but for quite a few days it was the top hit in contemporary poetry! It’s also charted fairly well in dark fantasy, considering there’s a much larger volume of that genre out there. If any readers of this blog picked a copy up, I thank you! It’s much appreciated.
The Kindle edition and ePub are still free for the taking, as I’ve noted before. The next entry in the series should be out around May 16th-May 18th, with books three and four following suit close behind. I’m still not sure of the status of five, six and beyond, because after these I am taking a break from poetry to work on my fiction. Poetry is my hobby, fiction is my passion.
Stay tuned for a trivia and commentary later this week. It’s not an analysis, don’t worry. How pompous would you have to be to analyze your own book? No, it’s just some fun facts and making-of tidbits. Nothing grand, but might be of interest.

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Cosmic Love – An Eternal eBook Giveaway

ChapbookCoverCL(Ebook)

Cosmic Love, the latest in my foray into genre poetry, is now officially free ad infinitum. Forever and eternal, worldwide. At least the eBook versions, but there’s also a fairly snazzy paperback available for not too much if you prefer print. I know some stand by print religiously, so I make a point to offer it if I can.
This entry in the series is one of romantic melancholy, with some tinges of science fiction aesthetic and dark fantasy.

All versions should be in beautiful order. If you get a copy, reviews would be appreciated. Feel free to interact with me on Goodreads, I love to hear what people think. I’ll be doing a series of commentary on this and Absolute Heaven soon as well. Tell your poetic friends, help it hit the top of the chart! At least for its fifteen minutes of fame, that is. It’s also available on several other eBook sellers, like Apple Books, but I certainly don’t feel like listing them all, so you’re free to search your favourites. Enjoy! 🙂

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Featured Releases – Cosmic Love, Absolute Heaven

 

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Absolute Heaven Blurb: Absolute Heaven is an omnibus of poems that capture the darkness which hides deep in the mind. Devilishly blurring the lines between romantic hatred and grotesque love, Absolute Heaven is a work of raw emotion, blood and nightmare that spans all genres of horror. Not for the faint of soul or the weak at heart.”
Cosmic Love Blurb: Solemn and dreamlike, Cosmic Love paints a vivid image of love and hurt in the wake of an unknowable future. An infusion of science and magic, heart and mind, this poetry collection rains down its verses like stars. Cosmic Love is nothing short of inspiring with its dark, imaginative romances.

The first two official entries in the S.M. Shuford Poetry Collection. Besides Absolute Heaven, which is namely cut material and is massive, the series will be made up of short chapbooks that I’ll be publishing periodically from 2019 to 2021. There is set to be fourteen books, and each time one comes out I’ll be doing a series of commentary. I’d rather do this than promotional material on this blog, I think that’s far more interesting. People will be less pressured to decide if they want to read them or not. Some digital editions will be free indefinitely.

Cosmic Love and the upcoming smaller entries after it are available in paperback for a standard of $6USD for a brand new copy, if you prefer print, but the digital copies are or are soon to be. It’s now out internationally in ePub, you’ll just have to check your favourite book-vendor to see if they’ve got it.
Absolute Heaven is on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. If either of these look interesting to you, I’ve been trying hard to repair my earlier efforts, so I’d appreciate adding them to Goodreads or picking up a copy. It’s up to you, though.

✨Cosmic Love – A Free eBook✨

ChapbookCoverCL(Ebook)

My treat to you. Cosmic Love is the first entry in an ongoing saga of personal poetry, which will span a wild spectrum of genres. As a whole, the S.M. Shuford Poetry Collection is contemporary poetry blended in with some experimental, haiku and fantasy-horror touches. If you’ve followed this blog long enough to have a copy of the old version, throw it out and get this one. It’s far superior. I promise.

This is the link to the ePub, PDF, and international Kindle edition. The paperback is available to buy on Amazon as well, in most regions, with a slightly prettier Kindle version to be out on there soon. It would be out today, but there were some difficulties publishing it.

Paperback – https://www.amazon.com/dp/1096296942
eBook – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/793028

Since this will be free forever, do me a favour and rate or review it if you download a copy. We can make Cosmic Love hit the top 10 in free books! You can do this on Goodreads, Amazon, or wherever you get your books. This is a lot more helpful to an author than most promotions end up being. These are not the only regions or sellers Cosmic Love will be available from, it’s also soon to be on Apple Books, Kobo, and a few others, so if you have one you’d rather get it from, it might be on there. You’ll have to check back in a few days.

Book Review – A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Poetry
Publication Date: May 12th, 2015
Publisher: Speak

“I’m a lone palm tree towering over grassy fronds of rice in a paddy field, yearning to touch the sky although I get lonelier the higher I go.”

A Time to Dance has a simple but absolute beauty. It is a captivating portrait of the rise, fall and spiritual rebirth of a young dancer, Veda, who loses her leg to an accident, yet is more determined than ever to dance. Veda’s dance is so valuable to her, so demanding of her body and spirit, that any pride that held her back before is no longer worth losing it.

I pretty much devoured this book in a night. I love the way this story is captured in loose but flowing prose that blossoms as naturally as flowers. The relationship with Veda and her grandmother was especially beautiful, always an offset to the strained feelings Veda seems to grow with everyone else.

The character development is well-executed, showing whose heart is shallow and whose is true when they treat her differently after her accident. Veda feels as if she is re-enacting in her own life, a smaller and more human version of the epic poetry she portrays on stage. The intertwining parallels between the narrative and Hindu mythology are creative, I have to say, and I also appreciate that the romance was not written at the forefront of Veda’s achievements.

“The strangers’ presence feels warm as a blanket, but not warm enough to thaw the sea of unshed tears frozen inside me.”

I don’t like to compare this novel with one of my most loathed, because I enjoyed A Time to Dance quite a lot, but it reminds me of a more sensitive, good version of Izzy Willy Nilly. They’re both about a promising athlete losing her leg and having to prove herself capable. I realize what I hated so much about Izzy Willy Nilly is that the protagonist never does overcome her struggle. That book was uncomfortably focused on blaming her for her misfortune. So much victim-blaming. There was nothing meaningful but reliving someone’s pain, with no hope nor retribution towards the one actually responsible for the accident.

Venkatraman’s poem avoids all of that to tell a personal saga, and is so much better for it. The characters are well-rounded, realistic, and importantly, it accepts that sometimes misfortune can just happen. That it’s something we all have to triumph at some point in one way or another, and it tells so beautifully. You definitely should read this, if it interests you in any way. It’s very difficult to find much to dislike about, and is one of the better free verse novels I’ve picked up.

“Mukam karothi vachalam; pangum langayathe girim. – God’s grace moves the mute to eloquence and inspires the lame to climb mountains.”

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Poem – “A Nameless Brand of Heartache”

A Nameless Brand of Heartache

A nameless brand of heartache,
One too priceless, too excrutiating
To embody with one’s own love
It’s every sin, every redemption
Every virtue altogether in cacophony,
No harmony nor pleasure at all

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
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Poem – “Closed Hearted”

Closed Hearted

Why do you always expect difference
You know I’ve been closed hearted
So long the doors have melded to one
There is no way to release what I’ve lost
I don’t know why you ask every day
When you know to change is impossible

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Poem – “Barefoot on Dreams”

Barefoot on Dreams

The dunes of a dream appear as glass
Smooth as the diamond on a queen’s ring,
Pink as the hollow of an oyster’s mouth
Shall we dance barefoot without once slipping
Until the stars reach the underside of the sun?

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Book Review – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

★★★★★ 5 Stars

Genre: Suspense / Mystery
Publication Date: August 1938 / December 2007
Publisher: Virago Press

“I believe there is a theory that men and women emerge finer and stronger after suffering, and that to advance in this or any world, you must endure ordeal by fire.”

Rebecca and her mansion of Manderley crawl with unease – unspoken secrets threatening to burst into something horrible. The tension here is thick enough to form its own phantom, a frost blooming on the spine that dares to expose itself. Drawing from the destructive powers of envy and doubt, Rebecca is a testament to atmos, haunting our mind even 80 years after its initial publication.

The protagonist is a young woman who marries a wealthy heir a decade or so older than herself, Maxim de Winter, on something of a whim and goes to live with him at his house of Manderley. Manderley is haunted by not only the memory of his dead wife, Rebecca, but also the living – the disturbed housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who has a poisonous animosity towards the new Mrs. de Winter simply because she is not Rebecca. Rebecca was glamorous, ordered, and the polar opposite of the protagonist in any aspect you can name.
Mrs. Danvers’ twisted, almost romantic obsession with Rebecca becomes an increasing distress the more it breaks into the open. In private, Mrs. Danvers doesn’t bother to hide that she hates the protagonist and even tries to coerce her into suicide at one point.
Everyone at Manderley refuses to confront or discuss anything regarding Rebecca, her “ghost”, in a sense holding them in her vice even after her death. Maxim gets angry with his new wife for trying to connect in some way with Rebecca, and needless to say Mrs. Danvers torments her for failing to be more like Rebecca.

The protagonist famously remains nameless. I was struck off-guard once during the ball scene where someone refers to her costume as being like Caroline, one of the de Winter ancestors’ names, which is about as close as she gets to ever being called a name besides “Mrs. de Winter”. Even her title is a cruel reminder of a woman she feels she will never live up to. The worst is that it’s hinted as the riddle starts to make more sense to the protagonist that maybe Rebecca isn’t someone she should try to be, and was not the angel that Mrs. Danvers and the others saw her as.

Atmosphere is the shadowed soul of horror, and I do hesitate to call this a “horror” novel, but in a sense it truly is more frightening than any entity or demon. For one, it is painfully real and relatable for me. I cringed with… severity during quite a few scenes in this book, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. They are just incredibly unnerving and mirror almost to a T things I have gone through. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I think anyone who reads it would feel the same dread and start to remember their own.
They say that the inexperienced are at an advantage because of youth, but anyone who’s tried to get their bearings in the world knows this isn’t true. One feels like they have missed out on something that is irretrievable, and I think that despite any appearances, what a person has done is always valued above who they were born or what they seem. This is a double-edged sword. Continue reading “Book Review – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier”

Poem – “Emerald”

Emerald

I will always dream about you
Gilded, shining beyond my reach
A human embodiment of the moon
Eclipsing the sun and his joys
Infusing eyes with the emerald of envy

I can’t say you’re heroic
I can’t even say you mean well
So fearsome I can’t stop your image
A jewel set permanently in my dreams

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Book Review – Love is Hell by Melissa Marr

★★★ 3 Stars

Genre: Romance / Dark Fantasy
Publication Date: November 25th, 2008
Publisher: HarperTeen

” ‘There are two types of people in this world: those who believe in love and those who don’t. I believe in love.’ She closes the book. Indeed, it’s not her thing.”

(Un)happy Valentine’s Day. Here I present the fitting title Love is Hell, a romance anthology that, despite the name, is not that infernal. Like the Valentine’s holiday, it’s neat but also easily forgettable.
Love is Hell dips its toes into the border of dark fantasy with the caution of someone who would be humiliated to be seen playing around in such territory. This collection tries on a patchwork flesh of genres, unsure about which it’s supposed to be. However, it does at least succeed at coming across as a romance book. If ho-hum about its paranormal side, I believe that paranormal romance fans are who it would probably appeal to most. I’m not grand on paranormal – not a species of book I have a positive history with. So you might want to break out your salt-shaker for my opinions here.

Love is Hell was a slog for me. The authors are all talented people, no doubt, but there is more aggravation than captivation about this, as well as zero consistency. It’s not fair to expect an anthology to be consistent as far as the writers’ styles, but there’s nothing threading them together. The shorts are at odds with each other rather than bleeding into a theme. One of which there isn’t, not that I could tell. Does this book even make the statement that love is, in fact, equal to eternal torment? Let’s break that down, shall we?

“Sleeping With the Spirit” by Laurie Faria Stolarz – ★★★
Hell-O-Meter: Low

The tragedy of a human who falls in love with a handsome ghost that was murdered in her house. Of course, this only happens after he drove her into severe insomnia because she was initially horrified by him. I found it creepier not that the boy was a phantom but that he was constantly watching her in her room. The apex of romance, that.
This story is alright, though. The plot is a little clichéd but the writing and pacing make for decent intrigue, and the ending is sweet. Continue reading “Book Review – Love is Hell by Melissa Marr”

Poem – “Antiromantic”

Antiromantic

Here we go again,
Severing fingers to pocket their rings
Throwing funerals for lost emotions
Pretending any more beauty is possible
When we are sure it has deceased

We were the killers, after all
Yet here we go again, feigning romantic
Like a love song written by bitter cowards
Or gratitude promised by a miser

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Poem – “Glass Razor”

Glass Razor

Fragility that beckons the unthinkable
A once impenetrable faith sliced into mirrors
That never allow the same face to meet

A castle is far more beautiful
After being left to desolation awhile
A glass razor is far more dangerous
After it has been cruelly broken

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Poem – “Golden Lotus”

Golden Lotus

The holy princess is the desert embodied
She is its jewel of water, braids of hair
Billowing like braids of sand skirting the dune,
Vibrant like the star in the moon’s eye
Golden pools of lotus in her dark palms
Her spells are keys to heaven lost in silence
The holy princess hears no human war

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