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 June 2, 2014

  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Lara Vapnyar
  • Date Published January 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-4767-1262-8
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $25.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Lara Vapnyar’s The Scent of Pine is a lyrical short novel (perhaps partly autobiographical) about the awakening of sex and love in a perestroika-era Russian children’s camp, an awakening which has repercussions later in the United States. The main character Lena, like her creator, came to the U.S. as a young married woman, but the more important parallel can be found in Lena’s youthful experience as a camp counselor for the pre-teen children. The writing is lovely, which is amazing since Vapnyar came to this country without knowing the language, yet decided to write all her novels in English. But what hits the reader particularly are the surprises at the book’s end.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jan Heller Levi
  • Date Published January 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1938584039
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Emily May Anderson
Orphan is an initially surprising title for Jan Heller Levi’s third collection of poetry, but after some thought, it strikes me as completely apt. While a few of the poems in the book relate specifically to the speaker’s parents, many others cast her as an orphan in other ways. The book opens with the poem “enter the tree” reproduced on the flyleaf inside the front cover. A brief eight-line poem, it describes “the snake” and “the woman”—a clear Garden of Eden reference to the original orphans, the sinners cast out of paradise by a sometime father; Levi’s woman, however, “doesn’t want what he’s offering // she just wants out / to see if there are other women / around.” This version of Eve is not a temptress or a victim, but a curious agent of her own destiny.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Sherman Alexie
  • Date Published November 12
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $19.00
  • Review by Kelly M. Sylvester
“14. Am I defined by what I’ve seen, or do I define the world by what I’ve witnessed? O, what beautiful or terrible thing waits around the next corner? Who isn’t in love with this mystery?” This final line in “Sonnet, With Some Things That I Have Seen” states the central questions burning in the heart of Sherman Alexie’s book of poems, What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned. Alexie, in a uniquely experimental way, delivers a punch with his deceptively lighthearted, yet exquisitely pointed, commentary on topics as complex as life on the reservation, family, gay marriage, death and loss, terrorism, racism and much more. With his fresh twists on traditions and invigorating perceptions, perhaps readers of Alexie’s work will resoundingly answer that the poet was born by his ability to define the world he witnesses.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Sawako Nakayasu
  • Date Published July 2014
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 90pp
  • Price $17.00
  • Review by Patricia Contino
They populate cities, rural areas and suburbia. Outdoors they assemble in perfect formation between sidewalk cracks or pile on top of what must appear to them a Himalayan mountain of dirt. Their living arrangement is more noticeable and precarious if they take up residence inside a human home. Spiders are artisans; fireflies decorate summer night skies. Ants are just their industrious, ungainly selves.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Lynne Savitt 
  • Date Published 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-935520-82-5&nb
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $18.95
  • Review by Aimee Nicole 
 Relics of Lust includes both fresh poems for new and loyal readers of Lynne Savitt as well as selections from her previous collections. Working through this particular collection, I found myself weeding out the stronger poems. There are several sets of themed poems, likely parts of larger sets in the books they were originally published in, that I found myself glossing over. I would like to think that they did not appeal to me as a reader because the poems included in this book were missing parts of the whole and therefore just did not satisfy.  
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Catherine Greenwood
  • Date Published September 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-926829-85-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $20
  • Review by Kelly M. Sylvester
Catherine Greenwood opens her collection of The Lost Letters with the energetic and musically driven “Monk Love Blues.” As my heart and mouth sang these words, which reminded me of poems from the great Langston Hughes mixed with Maya Angelou, I wondered if the collection could live up to its promising start. Greenwood does not disappoint—from start to finish, this beautifully crafted song soars.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Jamie Iredell
  • Date Published November 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1892061461
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 210pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Girija Sankar
Jamie Iredell’s I Was a Fat Drunk Catholic School Insomniac is a collection of essays following the trajectory of the essayist’s life, from school, through college and eventually, to life as a father to his young daughter. The collection of 19 essays delves into topics as varied as body image, obesity, alcoholism, drug abuse, feminism, racism, sexism, corny pickup lines and fatherhood.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Christopher Salerno 
  • Date Published March 2014
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 67pp
  • Price $11.00
  • Review by Andrea Dulberger 
There is something so predictable about the transactions we have with those quiet machines that feed us our money: the ‘automated teller machines.’ The poems in Christopher Salerno’s ATM often return to routine transactions with these devices and tug at where mundane moments can lead attention. With humor and melancholy, they collect details of ways the concrete and the ethereal mash together in modern life—how this exchange gives us a “sense of the world / as souvenir.”  
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Bruce Berger
  • Date Published January 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1929355952
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 316pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Girija Sankar 
The End of the Sherry is a beautiful memoir chronicling the life and times of Bruce Berger in Southern Spain as a young, 20-something American.  Berger flew to Spain from California, abandoning graduate school in Berkeley, his story following the footsteps of a friend, his dog and a dodgy car. His friend soon decided to go his separate way and Bruce found himself in a sleepy, small town in Southern Spain, picking up his own little entourage and filling in as the pianist for several rock and roll bands playing at night clubs.  With his home base set up at campgrounds close to town, Berger often spent the day entertaining his friends at home: “Drifts of free time washed them daily to my tent, sometimes bearing bread and cheese.” 
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Graphic Novel
  • by Martin Vaughn-James
  • Date Published October 2013
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $22.95
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
Martin Vaughn-James’ The Cage, a graphic novel originally published in 1975, was re-released by Coach House Books at the end of last year in a new edition which includes introductions from the author and Canadian cartoonist Seth. Interestingly, both artists try to explain what The Cage is ultimately about in their introductions.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Phyllis Rose
  • Date Published May 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1934824689
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 288pp
  • Price $26.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
The premise to Phyllis Rose’s most recent book is both compelling and fantastic. “Believing that literary critics wrongly favor the famous and canonical—that is, writers chosen for us by other—I wanted to sample, more democratically, the actual ground of literature.” One part literary criticism, one part memoir, and one part exploratory narrative, The Shelf: From LEQ to LES, Adventures in Extreme Reading is a vivid experiment in how to read and a challenge to read well.
newpages-footer-logo

We are currently in beta and welcome any/all Feedback.