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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted January 9, 2012

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Murray Shugars
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933675-57-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 63pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Kevin Brown
Murray Shugars’s collection of poems, Songs My Mother Never Taught Me, is clearly divided into three sections with distinct differences in approaches to the craft. The first section, which gives the book its title, is the strongest of the three, as Shugars creates a distinct world in this section. These poems are much more narrative than the other two sections and draw mostly on his childhood, though the speaker of the poems moves into adulthood in the poems about war.
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  • Book Type Young Adult Fiction
  • by Shirley Reva Vernick
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1933693842
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 137pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Aimee Nicole
The Blood Lie is labeled as a Young Adult/Jewish Studies book, but I think the main intention of the writer was to present it as Jewish Studies. The characters, plot, and narration did not seem aimed at appealing to the young adult reader, but at telling a story of Jewish history. A young girl, Daisy, gets lost in the woods and the Jewish people of the town are accused of kidnapping her for a blood sacrifice for Yom Kippur. These people are soon ostracized and forced to band together.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Will Boast
  • Date Published September 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1609380427
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 184pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Ryan Wilson
Will Boast’s Power Ballads, winner of the Iowa Award for Short Fiction, can at times feel as layered and as over-produced as its moniker. For one, the book, thematically linking the lives of various musicians, unfolds as a short-story cycle, which by the nature of the form allows a freedom and an unevenness to the storytelling on par with, say, Van Halen post-David Lee Roth.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Alta Ifland
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9831150-07
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 95pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Patricia Contino
“We are nothing but characters in a book” surmises the child narrator forever staring into the window of “Mrs. Q.’s Drugstore.” It is left to the reader to determine the exact relationship among the trio of peepers and if they ever work up the courage to see those “things that she must have at the counter.” But by the end of Death-In-A-Box readers will have a very good idea of Alta Ifland’s writing talent.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Milen Ruskov
  • Translated From Bulgarian
  • by Angela Rodel
  • Date Published November 2011
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 294pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Wendy Breuer
Novels that focus on contemporary foibles are often flattened in time by the ephemeral. In Thrown into Nature, Bulgarian writer Milen Ruskov sidesteps the obsolescence problem by giving us a picaresque novel set in sixteenth century Spain. Guimarães da Silva, acolyte and student, narrates his adventures with his mentor, Dr. Monardes, a true figure out of history, the "discoverer" and promoter of tobacco as the cure for whatever ails you.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Josh Rolnick
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60938-052-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Jodi Paloni
Josh Rolnick writes like a storyteller. He places his characters in the middle of complex situations, but doesn’t leave them stranded. Instead, he inhabits their psyches and builds compelling scenes for them to respond to trouble in the best way they know how, by lunging headlong into it. Meanwhile he creates scenes that rivet you to a sliver of time and the gloom of place, sweeping you up in the first sentences of his eight tales and setting you down at the end of each one with greater faith in the human race.
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  • Book Type Edited
  • by Jonathan Cohen
  • Translated From Spanish
  • by William Carlos Williams
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8112-1885-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 167pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Patrick Dunagan
After more than fifty years of James Laughlin’s New Directions publishing the work of William Carlos Williams, to have yet another new collection is a splendid surprise. Although many of these translations already appear in Williams’s Collected Poems, when all are gathered together from these separate sources and placed in company with a few other renegade poems not found there, the continuing necessity of considering the influence of Williams’s biracial heritage upon his work is evident. To not recognize this aspect of Williams’s identity is to risk missing a key component of his poetry. This is a danger editor Jonathan Cohen notes with his assertion that “Pound failed to understand that Williams identified himself as American because of his Hispanic background.” The multi-layered cultural identity of Williams celebrates the rich, fertile brewing ground that the Americas remain.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Francis Spufford
  • Date Published February 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-6040
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 448pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by David Breithaupt
As a kid growing up in a rural community in central Ohio during the 1960s, I heard the word “Communist” bandied about as if it were the lowest form of life to crawl across the American landscape. I thought for a time they had to be like the ogres in Grimm's fairytales who kidnapped children and ate them. Surely they lurked behind every corner. They were to be feared and exterminated. Commies were bad.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Steve Fellner
  • Date Published October 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9846353-0-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 64pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Kevin Brown
Steve Fellner’s collection of poems, The Weary World Rejoices, has much more weariness in it than rejoicing, but that is only because, as he writes in the first of three odes to Matthew Shepard, “Explanation never // satisfies. It / always wants // something / like redemption.” Fellner is not trying to explain what it is like to be a gay man in 21st-century America; instead, he is trying to redeem it by showing the varieties of that life as it actually is.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Tiff Holland
  • Date Published August 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9846166-2-6
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 44pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Pete Michael Smith
Ten stories make up Tiff Holland’s collection, Betty Superman. The stories themselves are short; altogether they fill only thirty-four pages, stapled into a lovely little edition from Rose Metal Press. But the size of Holland’s collection is deceiving. These stories cover the span of a life as only linked shorts can. They invite the reader to fill in the spaces between the wacky and outrageous scenarios our narrator and her mother, Betty, find themselves in.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Nikolai Gogol
  • Translated From Russian
  • by Constance Garnett
  • Date Published November 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8112-1947-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $9.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Russian writer Nikolai Gogol is famous for his serious satiric novel The Overcoat, but The Night Before Christmas, originally published in a 1926 short story collection, was Gogol’s first work at age 27—an early contribution to Russian literature. Recognized then for its fine writing and humor, now it can also be appreciated as a charming picture of Ukrainian folklore. Instead of Scrooge or the Grinch, the devil and a witch make mischief on a night full of mystical forces, the night before Christmas.
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