First of all, I would like to thank Megan O’Keeffe for sending me an ARC of her poetry collection Where I Ache to read and review! I am quite late in giving my review, due to busyness in my work life, and so I do apologize for that. But I am here now and I am very happy to share my thoughts on O’Keeffe’s collection. I believe this is her second poetry collection, and I am looking forward to seeing her hone her craft.
That said, I did have some issues with this collection, and there are many places where O’Keeffe can improve.
Before I go into the issues, I would like to point out the good parts of O’Keeffe’s poetry.
I love that this whole collection is basically introspection. I think it is this description of self-awareness and introspection that does and will allow readers to really connect with her words. Personally, I have found many of my own feelings in O’Keeffe’s lines of poetry.
O’Keeffe writes in a very straightforward manner, which, while not really my style, is very accessible to those who are either unfamiliar with poetry, or who just don’t get it. She states her meaning plainly and doesn’t disguise anything.
Another thing that O’Keeffe writes very clearly is her social commentary. It’s done in an observer’s, an experiencer’s, perspective, and I think that’s why it works so well for this genre. It’s not hidden, though still leaves room for readers to interpret.
Unfortunately, for me, these positive aspects of Where I Ache do not overpower the negative aspects.
Overall, O’Keeffe’s writing style is very juvenile, and it is reminiscent of the style used by poets like Rupi Kaur and Amanda Lovelace. There is no real craft involved in terms of the verses (I don’t even know if I could call them verses), and O’Keeffe relies a lot on emotion to make these verses poetic.
There are certain poems in which she begins to have a rhyming scheme, but doesn’t stick to it and abandons it halfway through the poem. I understand that this was done for emphasis, but it feels more as if the rhymes are there just to be there, rather than for any other poetic purpose.
The structure and format of the collection is also somewhat juvenile, in that O’Keeffe doesn’t use spacing for emphasis like many more mature poets use. Instead she actually bolds or italicizes the words, which, while very straightforward, doesn’t leave much for the reader’s brain to do or focus on.
Altogether, the structure feels very much like reading a teenager’s diary.
Overall, I think that O’Keeffe has a lot of potential as a poet and a writer, but she needs to work on her craft a bit more, maybe go a bit out of the box next time.
My many issues with this collection aside, here are the poems from this collection that I thought stood out more than the rest in terms of a more mature composition:
“Please Don’t Sugar Coat this for Me”
“The Mind’s Maze”
“Bright As Stars”
“It’s All Wrong”
“No One Cries for the Sinners”
O’Keeffe is not a poet that I would call a “wordsmith,” and while her craft is still very simple, I know that readers are loving and will love this collection for its simplicity and accessibility, as well as for its relatability regarding introspection and mental health.
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Dark academia is an aesthetic that has taken over the media of the internet, from books to movies to fashion. And, I must say, it has slightly affected me too. I am a classicist, and that just completely puts me in the realm of dark academia (those who have read The Secret History know what I’m talking about). I am also a huge supporter of the pursuit of knowledge, which is really what dark and all other academia is all about.
And that is what makes all the books on this list dark academia, at least in my opinion. Many of these books are dark in vibe and aesthetic and so just fit the genre much more. So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are my favorite dark academia books.
The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
This book does what The Secret History tried to do but better. It is about a Latin teacher at an all-girls boarding school in a remote location in the northeastern United States. As she struggles to have a life at this school, the teacher is forced to reckon with the darker portions of her past when she attended that same school as a student.
This book is full of academics, but also the staple of the dark academia Classics genre: a bacchanale that doesn’t go as planned.
Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
This book is so much about the pursuit of knowledge and the possibilities it gives us. Picture a young Einstein working at his desk in a dimly lit room having just finished his theory of time, when he starts imagining all the different ways that time can manifest itself. Each short chapter of this book is a different look at time, and the utter possibility that these things could be possible is another staple of dark academia.
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
This is a short novel that centers around a family who goes with a professor and his college students to live as Brits did in the Iron Age. That description alone is enough for the dark academia aesthetic, but when you add the darker aspects, it really kicks off.
Warning for this book, however: there are themes of child abuse and attempted murder.
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
This book is about Margaret Cavendish, who was an English aristocrat in the 17th century. Dutton tells a fictionalized biographical tale of how Margaret started her pursuit of philosophy and literature, and the struggles she had as a woman trying to be an intellectual in a time when women were really not supposed to be doing that in the view of her male counterparts.
Set in a time when the pursuit of knowledge that filled the Renaissance was still high and mighty, it is the perfect setting for the dark academia, period drama aesthetic.
Paris in the Twentieth Century by Jules Verne
In this more obscure tale of science fiction, Verne imagines what the world will be like in the late 20th century, focusing on a young man in Paris. This young man has just graduated from college with a degree in the almost obsolete field of Latin and Classical Studies. We see the young man struggle to survive in a world that is moving far beyond him, where art and humanities are dwindling out of the public interest.
Almost the complete opposite of Margaret the First, we see what the world could be like when the pursuit of knowledge is no longer useful in such a capitalistic era.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This rather chunky novel combines the pursuit of knowledge with the compulsion to solve a dark mystery. Set during and just after WWII in Spain, our protagonist finds a book called The Shadow of the Wind in a secret library, and becomes enthralled with the book and its author. But when he realizes that all of the other works by this author have been lost or destroyed, our protagonist goes on a quest for knowledge about this mysterious man.
The aspects of dark academia here include: period drama; the dark and dim aesthetics of the library and the dark places that our protagonist must search for clues; the war and post war setting; and the interest in a single book and its author.
Those are my favorites from the dark academia genre. Some are more obscure than others, and I highly recommend you check them out if you haven’t already! And I am open to any and all recommendations of dark academia books that you all might have!
If you’d like to support me and my work, consider buying me a coffee!
Those Who Run in the Sky is a middle grade, fantasy novel about a young Inuk man, Pitu, who learns that not only is he to be the next leader of his igluit, his village, but also is to become a powerful shaman. But when he is swept into the spirit world, he has to struggle with more than he bargained for.
This novel is, to my unlearned mind, a great first representation of Inuit culture and mythology, told by an author who is herself Inuk. She also uses this story to teach Inuk words, which is part of the reason I enjoyed and plan on keeping this book. The other reason is that the story, while not so plot-oriented, is full of imagery, culture, and tons of character development, making this the ideal coming-of-age story. I could see the Northern Lights in the sky, and imagine the harsh cold of the arctic winter. I could feel the emotion as Pitu becomes lost in many ways.
I have only a few criticisms of this book. The main one is that the writing and language tend to be a bit juvenile, but that is expected in many middle grade books. The other, less prominent criticism is that there are no real turns or climaxes to the plot, making the story feel more like a journey than a singular, linear tale. Which is not a bad thing, just different from what I am used to.
I recommend this book to everyone, even if it’s only to learn some Inuk words.
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I was inspired by Lauren Wade’s video on Youtube, where she talks about her own favorite classics. Some of my favorite classics are a bit more modern or a bit more unusual, but I think that’s what makes them classics to me! These are in no particular order, though based on my other posts I think you can tell which one’s are going to be more favorite than others.
Also doing this because I’m in a bit of a reading slump, but hopefully writing and thinking about books will inspire me to read more!
- The Haunting of Hill House
This is the hauntingly atmospheric novel by Shirley Jackson about a group of people who stay at Hill House, a supposedly haunted house. Told through the perspective of Eleanor, we see a shaky view of the people she meets and becomes more intimate with, and her unreliable narration amplifies the uneasiness felt in the house.
I love how uneasy this book makes me, both because I get a bit embarrassed for Eleanor, but also because you KNOW there’s something strange going on in and because of that house. Jackson really knows how to give chilling vibes.
As you might be able to tell, I do love my haunted house stories, and I count Rebecca as one of those stories. In this book a young woman meets and then marries the mysterious Max deWinter, whose wife, Rebecca, died a year before. As the new Mrs. deWinter tries to get used to her new role, she realizes that the grand manor, Manderley, holds more secrets and ghosts of Rebecca.
This book is so dark and sends the shivers up the spine. Like Eleanor in Hill House, the new Mrs. deWinter is unsure and uninformed enough to make the narrative shaky, unreliable, and eerie, at least until she is able to be in on things.
- I, Claudius
This historical fiction recounts the life of the Julio-Claudians in the early days of the Roman Empire, through the perspective of the emperor Claudius. The narration takes us from the rule of Augustus and ends when Claudius becomes emperor (the sequel Claudius The God tells of what happens after this).
As a fan of ancient history, I love this telling. We get to know fun characters like the murderous Livia, the insane Caligula, and all who seek to impede Claudius’ life. Of course there are elements of this book that are not quite historically accurate, but it is still very, very entertaining.
- The Lord of the Rings
If you know me even a little, you will know that these are my favorite books in the world. I’m not going to go into the plot too much cause I assume if you haven’t read the book, you’ve at least seen the movie, and they’re pretty similar. The only think I will say that is missing from the films from the book is more of the folklore aspects that Tolkien fills his books with. I LOVE folklore and fairy tale, and reading about the elves, the barrow wights, Tom Bombadil, the mythology behind trees, it’s all just *chef’s kiss*. And the fact that all of this folklore has informed a lot of modern and contemporary folklore is what makes these books classics for me.
- Sense and Sensibility
One of my favorite romances EVER! I read this after I watched the movie with Emma Thompson and the rest of that all-star cast. I fell in love with Alan Rickman’s Col. Brandon, and so I had to see for myself if he is just as wonderful in the book and HE IS!! Also, a Jane Austen is always a classic, this just happens to be the best and favorite of mine!
- Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury’s famous novella takes place in a dystopian (deceptively utopian) world where books are outlawed, so people do not have ideas that are non-conforming. Our protagonist, a fireman, is one of the people who burns books when found. But what happens when one day he decides to keep and read one?
This is probably my favorite dystopian fiction because so many times have we almost lived this reality, where knowledge is kept secret and away from those who would learn and have their own ideas. Also, any book about books is for me, and a dystopian book about books? Oh ja.
- Paris in the Twentieth Century
Another dystopian! This is a more obscure book by Jules Verne, imagining what life might be like in the late 20th century. In this version of modernity, the arts and humanities are considered obsolete, and our main character, a classicist and Latinist, has trouble fitting in this world.
As a classicist myself, it is encouraging to read about those who will love the classics and language and art even in dire times, though it is sad to think about this decline. Even though it was in translation, I love the way Verne tells his stories.
- The Last Unicorn
I also read this book after I saw the movie, and I am happy to say that they are very similar! The book is so fantastic though, with a diverse and quirky cast of characters. I also love the theme of the disappearing fairy tale represented by the loss of the unicorns in this book. And a wizard named Schmendrick? I want him to be my best friend.
Another more modern classic, but a fantasy classic nonetheless!
- The Chronicles of Prydain
Again, I read this classic fantasy series after watching Disney’s The Black Cauldron, which takes its name from the second book in the series. In this series we follow three heroes, Taran, Princess Eilonwy, and Fflewddur Fflam as they overcome the evil powers that be in the lands of Prydain.
This series is all based on Welsh mythology, much of which can be found in the Mabinogion. I think that’s why I was so drawn to it at all, cause Welsh mythology is so cool!
- The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
Not really a classic in terms of books, but definitely in terms of the author. Edith Wharton is famous for her novels, but some don’t know that she also wrote ghost stories! Very much in the same vein of horror as Shirley Jackson, Wharton sets many of her stories in houses that have ghosts or secrets, the perfect haunting and eerie atmosphere that I am just in love with!
Those are my top 10! What are some of your favorite classics?
So most of you probably know, but if you didn’t know, I am a poet and I just recently published a collection of my poems!
The collection, Loss And Other Landscapes, has poems inspired by nature and the environment, by ancient poets such as Vergil, by mythology, and my own personal experiences.
Thank you all very much, and thank you for sticking with me through all my rants and reviews.