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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted August 03, 2015

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Liz Prato
  • Date Published May 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-941209-15-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 142pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Denise Hill
Running beneath each story in Liz Prato’s collection, Baby’s on Fire, is a murmuring chaos, the kind that seems to bubble beneath the surface either as the aftermath of or building up to a full-blown eruption. But those eruptions never come to readers in the span of the narratives. They’ve already happened, or this story is the building up to it, or it may never happen at all, and what we witness in these lives is precisely what we witness in the lives of people who surround us on a daily basis. Whole lives lived, the full details of which we have absolutely no awareness, but that simmer there, just below the surface. Just like our own lives in relation to others.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Laurie Foos
  • Date Published July 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-399-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 220pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Nate Zachar
A girl with blue skin is found drowning in a lake. A fifteen-year-old girl named Audrey saves her. Audrey’s mother, Irene, stands by. So do Irene’s friends, Magda and Libby. So do Audrey’s friends, Rebecca and Caroline. Audrey is the only one who acts; the rest of them watch. Audrey isn’t only the one who saved The Blue Girl, which is a remarkable thing for a fifteen year-old to do in itself, but she is the only one who attempted to save her. This singular moment—this moment of action and inaction—is the foundation for The Blue Girl by Laurie Foos. This event propels the story forward—how these six characters interpret this event, and thus in the process, how they come to understand themselves.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Regina Ulmann
  • Translated From the German
  • by Kurt Beals
  • Date Published January 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8112-2005-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Kurt Beals’s award winning translation of Swiss short story writer Regina Ullmann’s 1921 The Country Road will appeal mostly to mature readers who find themselves uncomfortable in contemporary fiction, seeking instead something old-fashioned. This is a different collection, unlike any short stories written today, more like vignettes, reveries, or sketches of rural peasant life in small villages, not grim but also not sentimental. It is not a page-turner; the reader will want to savor the beautiful prose and insights into human nature. Plot and character development are minimal, motivation and “backstory” in all but one case not given, lending a sense of mystery to the account. A repeated stylistic series of dots or ellipses suggests the steady continuum of life.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Khaty Xiong
  • Date Published November 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934832-46-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 42pp
  • Price $9.00
  • Review by Dana Johnson
Even before turning the first page of Khaty Xiong’s beautifully composed chapbook Deer Hour, we are given a visual clue as to what we’ll find inside. The cover image shows a large and noble buck suspended between an expanse of grey sky above and yellow field below. The animal, balanced between the two seemingly endless landscapes, defies and resists enclosure. Much the same way, Xiong’s poems refuse to be confined to definitive beginnings and endings, and instead hover, suspended on each page.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Peter Grandbois
  • Date Published March 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-877655-86-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 146pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Nate Zachar
“The Girl on the Swing,” the first novella of this two-story collection by Peter Grandbois, fittingly opens with a Kafka quote, because this is very much a story of metamorphosis. Not only does “the girl,” timid but precocious twelve-year-old Isabel, undergo a dramatic physical transformation, but so do the other three members of her family: her mother, father, and her brother, each in their own unsettling way. Isabel’s dramatic and quite gruesome transformation triggers a domino effect throughout the family; the panic caused by her transformation highlights her family’s dysfunction, which soon snowballs into a full-blown collapse.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jon Curley
  • Date Published May 2015
  • ISBN-13 978­0­9906669­2­9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 107pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Benjamin Champagne
“Been working on my abstractions now / for over a lifetime” is the very opening line of the book. This line holds true through the duration of Jon Curley’s Hybrid Moments,​which is of the school that plain language ought to be reserved for journalism. Though it is a modern work, influenced by much in the contemporary realm, it rings in the manner of the classic romantics. The language is ornate and the thoughts are powerful. There are many threads that must be teased from one another.
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  • Book Type Cross-Genre
  • by Julia Cohen
  • Date Published November 2014
  • ISBN-13 979-1934819383
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 126pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Scott Russell Morris
When I finished Julia Cohen’s I Was Not Born I had the following reactions, more or less simultaneously: That really ends with a punch. I am not so sure what just happened there. I want to try something like this. Even from the first paragraph of the first essay, I knew that this was not going to be a traditional project.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Mark E. Cull
  • Date Published April 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55071-990-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 210pp
  • Price $20.00
  • Review by Nate Zachar
The King of the Sea Monkeys is a novel of two parts. The first part is about Paul, a young high school teacher, a loving father to Jessie and husband to Lilian. The second part is about Saul, whom Paul “becomes” after surviving a gunshot to the head upon being thrust into the middle of a gas station robbery. Wrong place, wrong time, and just like that, Paul becomes Saul.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Julie Iromuanya
  • Date Published May 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-397-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 288pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Allyson Parsons
The back cover of this book will give readers the most bare-bone details of Mr. and Mrs. Doctor; that Job and Ifi are a Nigerian couple in an arranged marriage, that Job, “Mr. Doctor,” isn’t actually a doctor, and that this lie puts a strain on their marriage and their life at large. But Julie Iromuanya’s novel is about more than a struggle to keep up appearances. It delves into the nitty gritty details of a culture, a marriage, two people unto themselves, displaced in a strange land that is famed to provide opportunity and riches. From the very first pages, it is painfully clear that this life is not what either Job or Ifi had pictured for themselves.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Kristin FitzPatrick
  • Date Published September 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-940425-72-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $16.99
  • Review by Rhonda Browning White
FitzPatrick’s debut collection, published by the Vandalia Press imprint of West Virginia University Press, consists of nine powerful stories about the fragility of hope, the devastation of grief, and the precarious balance of family harmony that lies between the two. Four of the nine stories feature the same characters, allowing us to see growth, and sometimes the lack thereof, in the lives of these individuals.
  • Subtitle A Lost Work by Geoffrey Peerson Leed
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by M. Allen Cunningham
  • Date Published March 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9893023-4-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 262pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Author Geoffrey Peerson Leed is a voice from the future. Other than a webpage issued by The Market Optimization Bureau labeling him “subversive,” there is his “lost work” Partisans. Leed too is a “ghostly neighbor” whose fate is unknown. M. Allen Cunningham is responsible for the book’s publication, presented in accordance with the author’s wishes “as indicated in manuscripts discovered after his disappearance.” Readers who favor either the political dystopias of Orwell or the zombie-apocalypse works of Max Brooks will be interested in what Leed has to say.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by G. C. Waldrep
  • Date Published May 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-938160-63-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Ryo Yamaguchi
“The body as sculpture,” Testament—G. C. Waldrep’s book-length poem—begins, and with it we feel the steadying gesture that prefaces any great feat—fingers at one’s temples, eyes closed, the breath held.
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