Category: Book Reviews

Book Reviews

A review of The Shaman of Turtle Valley by Clifford Garstang

Reading Garstang’s The Shaman of Turtle Valley brought to mind two very different novels. Ill Will by Dan Chaon for the way it dissects American violence DNA. And The Border of Paradise by Esme Weijun Wang for exploring the cost of when a decent but oblivious American man brings back an Asian wife and settles down in a non-Urban environment. But Garstang’s net is cast wider with an eye to tie domestic issues with foreign policy.

A review of Stories from Bondi by Libby Sommer

Sommer has the ability to create believable characters and place them in real life situations, whether these situations are arranged or occur by chance. The ‘unusual’ sometimes is found in this writer’s narrative, like when she describes different types of Glutei Maximi, for those unacquainted with Latin this mean simply ‘bums’.

An interview with Richard Thomas

Author, editor, and teacher Richard Thomas talks about writing through difficult situations, about the value of MFA programs and teaching writing, about accurately representing diversity in his work as an editor, about writing across genres, and elevating genres like horror, advise to writers who might be afraid to show others their work, and lots more.

A review of The Beating Heart by Denise O’Hagan

O’Hagan does a beautiful job of describing the Italy of her childhood—the buildings, fountains, news items, a walk with her parents, conversations, cobblestones, the loss of a friend, or a roadside drive. There’s a sense that every detail is both intensely private, and absolutely important—a universal artefact that must be shared with the reader

A review of The Minor Virtues by Lynn Levin

I don’t usually consider virtue amusing, but Lynn Levin’s new book of poetry The Minor Virtues had me laughing out loud. In a reading I attended, she called it her most cheerful book yet. She said she wanted to focus on not the big virtues like patience and temperance, but what she called the minor virtues that she elicited from paying attention to small moments and looking in deeply.

A review of Sea Glass Catastrophe by Quinn Rennerfeldt

There is music in Sea Glass Catastrophe words flow sometimes in a precipitous way, others with measured and a toned-down cadence with a sprinkle of sharp notes. In this chest of surprises we read poems that tell us of pain and hunger, joy and search, sinning and redemption. Some of the poems are mirrors with many faces, crystals that are coloured by Quinn’s creativity.

A review of Convenient Amnesia by Donald Vincent

This collection by Donald Vincent deserves to be read not just for his lyrical lines but because his poems bring emotional life to a cultural crisis. Books of poetry like Vincent’s convey social and personal histories that affirm and remind, that interrupt tendencies of convenient amnesia.

A review of What Kind of Man by Tony Gloeggler

These poems are all very New York-y, another source of the gritty joie de vivre at the heart of his outlook. Having been born in New York and lived his entire life in New York, this is natural, but it informs Gloeggler’s attitude, and there’s so much New York atmosphere, from scenes, neighborhoods, personalities, institutions, the public transportation.

A review of Imperfect by Lee Kofman

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend time Googling these people, or that I wasn’t fascinated by the whole notion of what constitutes beauty – and the way in which it’s judged. Kofman doesn’t pretend to have an answer—Imperfect is not a didactic book, and nor does it present a thesis that beauty is more than ‘skin deep’ and that judgement in any form is bad–we cannot help gazing at the beautiful or indeed the shocking. What the book does show however, is that these are complex and important questions to raise and that familiarity and reflectiveness are a means to better understanding who we are.

Remembering Cats Eye

Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1989. I haven’t read The Remains of the Day, the book that won, but it doesn’t matter. Cat’s Eye was robbed. Every sentence in the novel’s 498 pages serves the whole beating heart of it. No word is superfluous. Each one is a mini portal, transporting us and the main character, Elaine, back into memories without warning, exactly as Atwood intended.