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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted January 9, 2014

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Andy Singer
  • Date Published August 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-62106-486-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $13.95
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
Microcosm Publishing’s Why We Drive: The Past, Present, and Future of Automobiles in America is an image-rich examination of the dominance of car culture in the United States. “I am an advocate for car-free cities, car-free city sections, and car-free living,” author/illustrator Andy Singer states within the first few introductory pages. The text proceeds from there, detailing the disadvantages of arranging urban and suburban life around cars rather than people. This is followed by a succinct history of highway politics in the United States, and Singer concludes with a call to action, offering suggestions for individuals who wish to live car-free and strategies for funneling more money into public transportation at the state level.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Geoffrey G. O'Brien
  • Date Published September 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933517-72-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 128pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Kelly M. Sylvester
Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s People on Sunday took me a long time to finish because his poems thrilled me so much. Many pieces in People on Sunday demand an immediate reread upon completing the final lines. Often O’Brien tucks clues, hints, and foreshadowing into his poems. These hints blossom with much more depth and meaning during the second (or third and sometimes fourth) read. My fingers could hardly turn the pages backward fast enough to satisfy my urge to devour some of these poems again.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jerry Stahl
  • Date Published November 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-06-199050-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 272pp
  • Price $14.99
  • Review by David Breithaupt
Just when you thought it was safe to move about the cabin, Jerry Stahl has unleashed a new novel. To the uninitiated, Happy Mutant Baby Pills has no exact genre except for Stahl himself.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by A. Igoni Barrett
  • Date Published May 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-640-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 216pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Wendy Breuer
The characters in A. Igoni Barrett’s short story collection, Love Is Power or Something Like That, are linked to each other within the chaos and contrasts of Lagos, Nigeria in a nation cycling since the end of colonialism between democracy and dictatorship, reform and intractable corruption. They are dreamers and strivers who sometimes literally tumble into potholes of bad luck while living out the axiom that “no good deed goes unpunished.” The instinct to love is also part of the chain: a father struggling to save a sick infant daughter; a son trying to nourish a drunk, abusive mother; grandmothers who try to nurture neglected grandchildren; two feuding old women abandoned by long departed children who must rely on each other for mutual aid; cousins unable to resist an illicit attraction; a wife trying to placate a husband’s raging despair.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Colin Fleming
  • Date Published June 2013
  • ISBN-13 9781937402563
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 162pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
Flesh-eating hagfish, blue bejeweled garages, animated art, and a moveable geography. Dark March: Stories for When the Rest of the World is Asleep is filled with stories where sandspits are sentient, seagulls are cutthroat, and character conscientiousness is invariably fleeting. These hyperbole-infused short stories infuse ordinary settings with magic and imagination—they give just enough detail to be anchored in a possible universe but contain enough impossibility to buoy the characters above the predictable. Colin Fleming’s collection is pithy and witty, and manages to walk an interesting line between absurd existentialism, surrealist fantasy, and magical realism.
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  • Book Type Cross-Genre
  • by Susan Gevirtz
  • Date Published March 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-937658-08-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 176pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
Coming Events promulgates a non-linear reading practice. The form and content of these “collected writings” challengingly swerve back and forth between critical essay, poetry, and personal essay. When considered as a whole, the book’s tendency toward a deliberative structure of concentricity enchants, as individual pieces loop back on each other in ellipsoidal, interchanging depths of reading. The slow reader, returning again and again to the book’s pages, is justly rewarded against the too-eager skimmer looking for quick buzz-words and easily identifiable markers.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Darcy Lipp-Acord
  • Date Published September 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0986035555
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 117pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Girija Sankar
What is home? Darcy Lipp-Acord asks. Is it in the prairies of South Dakota where she grew up? Or amidst the mountains of Montana where she attended college? Where does one truly ever belong? What is place? Lipp-Acord explores these and other timeless themes in Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey. In a total of thirteen essays, written over ten years, Lipp-Acord wraps the reader up in the intimacy of her marital home, her childhood home, her husband’s ranch, and the lives of her children. Lipp-Acord grew up in Timber Lake, South Dakota, on a farm where three generations of her family have lived. She now lives on a ranch near the border of Montana and Wyoming with her husband, Shawn, and their six children.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ray Ragosta
  • Date Published September 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936194-15-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Kelly M. Sylvester
Ray Ragosta’s refreshing style of writing in A Motive for Disappearance prominently features sparse lines in what are typically short poems. Upon a second read-through of this book, a few lines from two of the pieces jumped out at me as Ragosta’s built-in description of his own work: “Their tales, a perfect infection of memory” and
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs
  • Date Published April 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9885399-0-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 98pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Aimee Nicole
Latasha Diggs is a writer you have to experience, not read. Twerk isn’t a book to toss into the back seat of your car “for later” or a read-a-poem-here-and-there collection. With each verse, she sparks your curiosity and lures you deeper and deeper with her unique craft.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Brynn Saito
  • Date Published March 2013
  • ISBN-13 9781597097161
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 85pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Theresé Samson Wenham
In her debut collection, The Palace of Contemplating Departure, Brynn Saito carries uncertainties and measures them out against the known and the unknown. Saito finds an enthralling voice for complex emotions about race, war, identity, scars, ghosts, family, and suffering. Her undeniable cultural identity is woven through the poems. Her parents are Japanese American and Korean American; their stories, of life during a time when being Asian was a liability in America, are retold here, while Saito’s own stories predominate throughout. She lets us get to know her in an equivocal way and then leaves us with a light hold of attachment and a fierce curiosity about meaning and significance.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Lori Jakiela
  • Date Published May 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936196-18-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 280pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Cheryl Wright-Watkins
In her previous memoir, Miss New York Has Everything, Lori Jakiela—an adopted only child—wrote about leaving her childhood home in Pennsylvania to work as an international flight attendant based in New York City, hoping to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a writer. Jakiela, who directs the writing program at The University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg and teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing program at Chatham University, writes here about the next phase of her life, after her father’s death and leaving New York City, her job, and her boyfriend to return to Pittsburgh and care for her ailing mother.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Gail Martin
  • Date Published September 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9794582-6-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 94pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Julie Swarstad Johnson
While the title of Gail Martin’s second collection of poetry, Begin Empty-Handed, calls to mind a state of lack, it also implies a readiness to be filled, an openness to whatever might come to hand. This tension between remaining unburdened and delightfully accepting whatever turns up runs throughout Martin’s poems, as they both critique and catalog the world through the eyes of a therapist, daughter, wife, and mother. Winner of the 2013 Perugia Press Prize, Begin Empty-Handed crackles with wit and humor even as it considers loss and questions of responsibility in poems that clip along with intensity.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Tamiko Beyer
  • Date Published May 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1938584008
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Emily May Anderson
We Come Elemental is Tamiko Beyer’s first full-length book; her chapbook bough breaks was published by Meritage Press in 2011. While bough breaks focused primarily on “domestic” concepts (gender, sexuality, motherhood, adoption), We Come Elemental draws from the entire planet for its topics. Water comprises the framework by which these disparate subjects are connected, just as water serves to connect all life on Earth.
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