Category: Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Common Denominators: A review of If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on my Face by Alan Alda

The title to his newest and third book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? and its subtitle, “My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating” reflects an intellectual sensibility conveyed clearly and directly. It underscores the very points he is trying to make in this book. Alda has a gift for speaking about lofty ideas in layman’s terms, and his fervor for his subject matter shines through. This passion is at the heart of what engages us.

A review of Muir Woods or Bust by Ian Woollen

There’s never been a more welcoming time in America than now for irreverent social satire, such as embraced by Ian Woollen’s latest called Muir Woods Or Bust. It winks and grins slyly as you determine to pick it up, a premonition of what you’ll soon be engaged in doing. I certainly welcome Woollen’s earthy, ground-shaking wit on display in its pages and you likely will also.

A review of Devil’s Spring by Aaron Paul Lazar

Lazar is the master of the extended series, building his characters over years, slowly and richly so they become real to the reader. Little by little the characters backstories are revealed, even as we move forward in time and meet children and grandchildren. For readers coming back to the stories, there are plenty of ‘easter eggs’ or references to pick up on.

A review of She Receives the Night by Robert Earle

As described by the publisher, that is an ambitious undertaking for any writer – especially perhaps for a male writer – and one that requires immense artistry and intelligence.  Earle has these things in abundance, and he uses them to compelling effect. Many of these stories are gems of the form; they feel inevitable, surprising, effortless.

A review of Goodbye, Cruel by Melinda Smith

Signs speak, horror rises through the floorboards, Hedge-Triffids surround the houses, and children poke sticks at dead possums. There is everywhere a clash between life and death; decay and renewal. Though Goodbye, Cruel explores painful places in a way that cuts deeply, ultimately the work is affirmative, moving back and forth into the particular and outwards into the universal. Smith does an exceptional job of bridging the gap between the absurd, the tragic and the domestic, turning it all into something tender and sublime.

A review of Life in Suspension by Hélène Cardona

There is something instinctual here, with freedom at the base. Perhaps this is why Cardona features animals in her poetry. They remind us that we too are instinctual and that this part of us can be in motion more often if less constrained by the mind. But we must not move away too quickly from the mind. Imagination lives there. This lesson, too, is in Cardona’s work, as the poet is “gardener of memories” (Ouranoupolis Pantoum 45).

A review of Waiting by Philip Salom

This is the human condition: oddly shapen, oddly matched, solitary, inter-dependent, vulnerable, and always waiting for something to change. It’s repulsive and loveable all at once. Waiting is critically important – a novel that tells little and shows much, leaving its readers full of fresh insight.

A review of All I Want To Do Is Live by Trace Ramsey

It seems to me that Ramsey describes the timeless effects of our breaths mingling with the air, our trembling embrace of the universe. How could these not stretch beyond our present reality? His compulsion to bring forth life, in children as well as words, marks him as one of us, his frustrating circumstances as another layer of humanity’s story.

A review of How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

Some readers may claim that the memoir is about a privileged girl getting high all the time. But her brutal honesty and writing style about her not-so-glamorous experiences – going to rehab, struggling with bulimia, her reliance on stimulants – shows that there’s merit to this memoir. She’s not a bad writer, she’s just creative in expressing herself and conveying it to me. It doesn’t matter to me that she’s not following conventional grammar and syntax – she’s found a medium that works for her.

As If We Were Here Already: A review of Are We Here Yet? Questions + Answers + Drawings by Aevi

I believe that it is this shift and the accompanying struggle that produced the magical disjuncture that characterizes Are We Here Yet? In other words, the book documents the four-and-a-half-year old boy’s own process of constantly reading what he wrote and trying to identify himself in what he read. It is in this sense that Are We Here Yet? is a book about the act of writing and reading books. It is a book that could only be written by a child, to be read by “children” of any age—those readers who have not yet learned to stop asking questions.