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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted April 01, 2015

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Bruce Covey
  • Date Published May 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934819-34-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 122pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
Bruce Covey’s Change Machine is a lively book that takes a humorous approach to formal experimentation. Among other ideas, Covey examines how the man-made world intersects with the natural one. Here, “man-made” includes human inventions both critical—mathematics, industry, philosophy—as well as trivial—puns, pop singers, imitations. The speaker’s voice is conversational but emotionally cool, and its consistency holds together a varied array of poetic forms including sonnets, near-sonnets, and imitations of iconic poems by Frank O’Hara, Alice Notley, and Ted Berrigan.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Eric Gamalinda
  • Date Published November 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-61775-304-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 300pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Audrey Quinn
If you are looking for a fast-paced, succinct, plot-driven book then The Descartes Highlands by Eric Gamalinda may not be for you. If, however, you are looking for a thoughtful, slow-burning character-driven story then settle right in. It is a story that follows two adopted brothers who grow up in different homes after being sold in the Philippines by their American father. Gamalinda’s novel delves into a world inhabited by an American draft-dodger living in the Philippines who ends up needing to sell his two sons to other foreigners, each burdened with their own grief and turmoil. We spend about a third of our time with the father in flashbacks and each of his sons in the present as they try to find out about their origins and deal with how their unique beginnings impact their lives.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Yasmina Reza
  • Translated From the French
  • by John Cullen
  • Date Published January 2015
  • ISBN-13 987-1-59051-692-8
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $20.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Theatergoers will be reminded of Yasmina Reza’s well-known plays Art and God of Carnage in this short story collection Happy Are the Happy. In spite of no paragraphing in each of the short stories, they flow with perfect dialogue, brief but definitive settings, and situations involving both humorous and sad bad behavior and embarrassment. Fiction allows Reza to exhibit her lovely style, vivid succinct descriptions, and ironic truisms and insights.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by William Black
  • Date Published April 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8023-1359-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Rhonda Browning White
William Black’s stunning and stirring debut collection consists of twelve short stories set in Appalachia’s Northeastern Pennsylvania, where rugged hills and peaceful valleys landscape both the terrain and the soul. The evocative language in which Inheritances is written mirrors the highs and lows of his characters’ emotions as Black leads us into and immerses us in their lives. Each story’s intriguing beginning and thought-provoking ending make this collection a keeper—one you’ll find yourself reaching for every time you need a dose of the valor and courage his characters demonstrate.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by John Sakkis
  • Date Published January 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1937658267
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
Throughout John Sakkis's The Islands, a polyvocal weave of declarative refrains sound out in dizzying display. Across the book's five sections appear poems, often in set series, presenting a hybrid mix of memoir, lyric, historical investigation, and daily documents full of dispatch concerning discursive news the poet’s ear has picked up on. We see in section three "Tangrams The New Collective," the speaker’s concern throughout remains with "The salt of human projects," in the face of which, Sakkis declares: "I go in. I am in bits." What's left for the poems are scattered fragments of events, both imagined and other, from out of which both structure and content prove to be derived.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Mary Jo Bang
  • Date Published March 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-704-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Ryo Yamaguchi
Mary Jo Bang is a slippery poet, with a mind that often seems a few seconds ahead of itself. A quick glance at the cover of her new book, The Last Two Seconds, perfectly encapsulates this kind of speed: the monorail that has just slipped from our frame of vision, the typography of the title trailing like a futurist contrail. It is this trailing, however, that is a crucial point—this collection is not about the next two seconds, but the last—as in the last two seconds you’ve just spent reading this sentence.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Elissa Washuta
  • Date Published August 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59709-969-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Audrey Quinn
I listed My Body is a Book of Rules by Elissa Washuta as one of the books that I was currently reading online and saw that a friend of mine listed it as one of her “to-read” books. That has happened a few times but I’ve never been as happy to see it as I was for this book. It’s very possible that I feel so attached to it because I’m a 20-something girl (who still finds it weird to call herself a “woman” since that seems to imply some level of adulthood) just out of a grad school trying to figure out what to do from here. The experiences that Washuta describes aren’t all ones that I can relate to. She discusses mental illness, being raped, and being a minority in such a way that, while a reader may not be able to relate, it’s easy to empathize with her.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Ira Sukrungraung
  • Date Published October 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59732-124-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Denise Hill
Ira Sukrungruang takes readers through the gamut in this collection of essays, Southside Buddhist. Gamut of what? You name it: emotions, literary styles of nonfiction, life experiences, ages, cultures—all in this one remarkable collection of essays.
  • Subtitle A Neo-Scientific Novella
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  • Book Type Cross-Genre
  • by Amy Catanzano
  • Date Published 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934819-39-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 118pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Benjamin Champagne
Starlight In Two Million bills itself as a neo-scientific novella. Amy Catanzano works in quantum poetics, a lofty goal. She states that she tries to amplify the hallucinatory experience of the novel by changing perspectives and seeks to find a fourth person perspective in the mode of time. Detached and somewhat nonlinear, the novel moves from an outré perspective and gives itself to the form much of the time, posing a challenge for the reader looking for one. The work attempts to produce a feeling, a controlled navigation through a hypercube.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kristina Marie Darling
  • Date Published September 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60964-191-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 66pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Kimberly Ann
I just finished reading Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a novel in which the narrator desires that she and her sister resist the socio-economic structure of 1950s New England and reside, instead, on the moon. They finally do achieve this goal by converting their large house into a smaller living space, boarded-up and isolated from the outside world. In novels like Castle, women often reinterpret the boundaries of living spaces in their writing partly because traditional domestic contracts and spaces constrain emotion, creativity, and grief. In her book of poems titled The Sun & the Moon, Kristina Marie Darling contributes to this collective literary voice that unfetters domestic space as her speaker grieves and examines a past marital relationship. The Sun and the Moon, representing respectively a husband and wife, are always at opposite poles in this space that reels with cinematic flashes of memory and the ghosts that inhabit memory over time.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Nicole Maruo
  • Date Published July 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9850837-3-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 63pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Benjamin Champagne
This is a found poetry book . . . of sorts. William Shatner did Palin on the “Tonight Show.” He took Sarah Palin’s farewell speech and delivered verbatim in a beatnik style with an accompaniment of bongos and stand-up bass. Hart Seely, Syracuse Post-Standard columnist, seemed to hit gold with Pieces of Intelligence, his collections of poems that he ripped from Donald Rumsfeld. Nicole Mauro takes the idea to the next logical level in Tax-Dollar Super Sonnet, working with the fervor of a mash-up DJ. The borrowed speeches span the history of America and bristle with the newness of the modern age. These poems have a real political edge added back to them, the words reorganizing themselves to fortify new points.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Michelle Brafman
  • Date Published April 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-938849-51-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 334pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Rhonda Browning White
Intimate family relationships can startle us when we recognize that, despite our familiarity, we’re actually strangers who keep many secrets from one another. Such is the case for Barbara Pupnick Blumfield, who discovers as a teenage girl her mother’s infidelity. Author Michelle Brafman explores three generations of mother-daughter relationships in Orthodox and Chasidic Jewish families through the eyes of Barbara, contrasting her life in the 1970s when she first discovered her mother’s unfaithfulness, with her life as a grown woman in 2009, where she has a teen daughter of her own.
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