NewPages.com is news, information, and guides to literary magazines, independent publishers, creative writing programs, alternative periodicals, indie bookstores, writing contests, and more.

NewPages Book Reviews

Posted April 1, 2009

  • Image Image
  • Book Type Memoir
  • by Nancy Agabian
  • Date Published October 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1879960794
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 243pp
  • Price $12.95
  • Review by Ryan Call
Toward the end of her memoir, the richly titled Me As Her Again, Nancy Agabian writes:
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Daniel Allen Cox
  • Date Published April 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1551522463
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 176pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Brian Allen Carr
Daniel Allen Cox is brilliant with a picaresque vignette. He bobs and weaves through Shuck, throwing glimpses at the porn industry, New York City, gay sex and literary magazine submissions with steady grace, floating through the voice of Jaeven Marshall, aka the new Boy New York:
  • Image Image
  • Book Type YA novel
  • by Joyce Moyer Hostetter
  • Date Published April 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59078-606-2
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 306pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Jessica Powers
In this sequel to Blue, Joyce Moyer Hostetter’s award-winning tale of a young white girl’s battle with polio and her friendship with a black girl in the hospital where she recuperates, we follow Ann Fay’s struggle to accept her polio-induced disability and the knowledge that she’s different from everybody else. At the same time, her father is suffering post-war psychological trauma. He’s not the same father or husband, and Ann Fay isn’t sure how to cope with his personality change, particularly the threat of violence.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Shane Jones
  • Date Published February 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-0982081310
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 168pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Brian Allen Carr
Half way through Light Boxes Shane Jones drops his fiction mask. He pulls us back into reality. He gives us a list:
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Short stories
  • by Jenny Pritchett
  • Date Published November 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1889292182
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 156pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Josh Maday
Jenny Pritchett’s characters in At or Near the Surface live lives that, on the surface, would seem comfortable, secure, normal – lives that are generally good enough. But Pritchett opens the heads and hearts of these women to find that, in one way or another, they feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied with their lives. They long, they hurt, they are hungry. Whether they find themselves cycling through an unbreakable daily routine, at the crumbling edge of an unhappy marriage, unable to appease the stalking guilt from their past, or dealing with the surreal grief of a miscarriage, each of Pritchett’s characters must decide what they will or will not do with the rest of their lives.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type YA novel
  • by Mary Ann McGuigan
  • Date Published February 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59078-551-5
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 200pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Jessica Powers
The year is 1963. Yolanda and Fiona have already been friends for two weeks, and Yolanda is in the hospital because some thugs came looking for Fiona’s brother’s stash of drugs. The two aren’t supposed to be friends. Yolanda is black, Fiona is white. But here they are, and Fiona is helping Yolanda escape from the hospital before they release her. Yolanda wants to run away before her mother arrives, her mother who is traveling up from South Carolina, where she lives now, and who is planning to take Yolanda back to South Carolina to live with her. So the two girls sneak out of the hospital, where a distressed woman asks them to watch her dog so she can take her son to see her dying mother. And this is how their adventure begins.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Short Stories
  • by Jackie Corley
  • Date Published October 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9778151-5-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 100pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Josh Maday
Jackie Corley’s debut story collection, The Suburban Swindle, features a blurb that says, “Stories like poetry made from the gritty stuff of hard scrabble life.” It’s not often that a book blurb is all that honest or accurate. Hyperbolized and syrupy? Yes, almost always. But capturing the essence of the book in a line or two is indeed rare, and refreshing. This blurb definitely captures the essence. Corley’s characters do live hard, gritty lives. They live in a perpetual moment where things are always about to ignite, or burn out, or both – relationships are going to end, friends and lovers are going to leave – giving each story the sense that it takes place on the edge of a cliff.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Paul Hostovsky
  • Date Published December 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59948-153-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 108pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Jason Tandon
The term "accessible" has had its fair usage in poetry reviews, and I'll use it here to describe Paul Hostovsky's Bending the Notes, a selection for the Main Street Rag's Editor's Poetry Series. Hostovsky's poems require no specialized knowledge of literary tradition or poetics. Set against the working-class suburbs of Boston, a milieu of duplexes and bowling alleys, populated by aggressive drivers and girls named "Cece Santucci," these poems speak of parenting, childhood, love, and writing. Hostovsky's diction is colloquial and his tone, intimate. Often narrative, his lines unfold meditatively and lyrically to empathetic moments that illustrate commonplace, human struggles. One can see why poems from this collection with their abundance of emotional forthrightness were featured on Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac.
  • Image Image
  • by Robert D. Richardson
  • Date Published February 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1587297939
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 112pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by John Madera
Ralph Waldo Emerson never wrote an essay on writing. The closest he ever came to it was “The Poet,” a work that inspired Uncle Walt to write Leaves of Grass. However, Emerson was far from silent on the issue. Careful excavation of his works reveals numerous thoughts on the writing craft. But rather than combing through everything Emerson wrote, you might start with First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process. Robert D. Richardson’s new book excavates these gems of wisdom for any writer aspiring to refine their own art. And it wouldn’t hurt to learn from Richardson’s own crisp, erudite, and unfussy prose, a style sure to have met Emerson’s approval.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Memoir
  • by S.L. Wisenberg
  • Date Published February 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1587298028
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $25.00
  • Review by Cyan James
Join me, please, in trotting out an old chestnut to roast over the open fire of winter passing. I'm talking about that oldie-but-goodie, "Can't judge a book by its cover" chestnut. Roast it. Crack it open and spread it on your melba toast. Because that chestnut lies to you sometimes, and certainly is lying to you if you're staring at the cover of S.L. Wisenberg's The Adventures of Cancer Bitch. I know. It's nearly spring. We don't want to think about cancer right now. We'd rather not be bitches. But join me for just a moment, please, and help me contemplate this cover. We've got the title, for one, emblazoned over an oddly appealing, oddly alarming photograph of a papier-mâché figure of Wisenberg (presumably) complete with flaunted hero-cape, peace-sign earrings, cancer-cropped hair, and defiant red circle with a bar through it smack over the place you'd expect her left breast.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Novel
  • by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Date Published June 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1-932961-68-3
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Christina Hall
This novel doesn’t cross lines. It blurs them. What first seems to be a flaw on the part of the author turns out to be the intention. Last Night in Montreal subtly breaks boundaries throughout, whether through aspects of the plot or the ways in which it was written. Because of this, the words get under our skin, making us feel as if something is off, but we are still urged, through Mandel’s words, to keep reading and to push past the discomfort that looms on every page.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Novel
  • by Jean-Philippe Toussaint
  • Translated From French
  • by Matthew B. Smith
  • Date Published November 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56478-522-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 122pp
  • Price $12.95
  • Review by Josh Maday
In the geology of Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s career and development as a writer, his third novel, Camera, is easily placed in the same strata as his debut, The Bathroom. However, Camera is funnier and more romantic (in the nameless narrator’s weird way). The book opens:
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Novel
  • by Jean-Philippe Toussaint
  • Translated From French
  • by Nancy Amphoux and Paul De Angelis
  • Date Published November 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1564785183
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 102pp
  • Price $12.95
  • Review by Josh Maday
The nameless narrator of Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s debut novel, The Bathroom, takes up residence in his bathroom and refuses to leave, while others attend to him and try in vain to coax him from the bathtub, where he cultivates the “quietude of [his] abstract life.” The premise brings to mind Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov, the 19th-Century Russian nobleman who does not get out of bed for the first 150 pages of the novel. However, while The Bathroom is no satire, neither does Toussaint weigh it down with seriousness.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Novel
  • by Domenico Starnone
  • Translated From Italian
  • by Antony Shugaar
  • Date Published March 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-1933372662
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 176pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Laura Di Giovine
On the surface, First Execution by Domenico Starnone is a novel about terrorism, filled with the requisite twists and turns that are the driving force of a crime thriller. Yet, it’s also a metafictional narrative reminiscent of Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, becoming a text on the act of writing and editing, switching from protagonist to author, and back again.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type A Novel
  • by Brenda Webster
  • Date Published January 2009
  • ISBN-13 978-0-916727-50-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 228pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Jason Hinkley
Brenda Webster's new novel, Vienna Triangle, employs the historical context of the early psychoanalysis movement to create a mystery that explores the dark side of intellectual enlightenment. Using Freud and his inner circle as case studies, she investigates the rise of egoism and the tension of professional ambition within the group. Like most historical fiction that focuses on intellectual movements and figures, Vienna Triangle plays largely on the relationship between ideology and character that exists whenever you have someone trying to change our cultural perspective.
newpages-footer-logo

We welcome any/all Feedback.