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Published June 19, 2019

one little secret cate holahan"People in glass houses should not throw stones"

One Little Secret by Cate Holahan is a brilliantly written novel enabling the reader to feel suspense as they whizz through the chapters.

The characters within the novel are very thought out, and the reader is able to visualize their appearance as well as learn about their personalities through the words on the page. Gabby, who is a detective, is a strong female lead, and this is nice to read as she is seen as a feminist character. Each character adds their own input into the story and their lives are all intertwined through a series of events which will be revealed within the novel.

Each chapter is full of suspense, and they are  short, so the reader is not left hanging or bored with the content. The plot is structured into two strands: before and after the murder.

The settings are beautiful within the book, and they can only be described as a  paradisiacal haven where only the rich of the rich get to go. The story is set, for the most part, in a huge glass rental house, and though cliché, the saying “people in glass houses should not throw stones” perfectly applies to this novel. Pathetic fallacy is used a lot to set the tone of each chapter as the plot twists and turns.

As the reader, you go through a roller coaster of emotions throughout, deciding who to side with and trying to work out who is lying and who is telling the truth. And you constantly question yourself as to whodunit.

Overall, this was a very good novel by Holahan, and I will not hesitate to pick up another of her books in the future, as I read this one in only one weekend!

 

Review by Tom Walker

Published June 17, 2019

jellyfish review blogIn response to the recent abortion bans in the United States, Jellyfish Review has been publishing a series of “Pro-Choice stories” with their usual selections. In the days surrounding the bans, my social media accounts exploded with people in my life coming forward with their own abortion stories, each of their needs and wants behind their choices unique. The Pro-Choice stories of Jellyfish Review mimic this: varying voices and points of view from different walks of life, all of them valid.

Now That I’m Being Honest” by Holly Pelesky is addressed to the child the narrator planned to abort and didn’t, back before she found her voice, highlighting how important the ability to make a choice is in a life. In “A Fetus Walks into a Bar,” Jonathan Cardew’s imagined fetus is cold-blooded and gun-toting, leading readers to consider the rights afforded gun owners vs. uterus owners.

None of It Was Easy” by Meghan Louise Wagner is a short, thirteen-part nonfiction piece that walks through each step, from the first hint that Wagner is pregnant to the afternoon the day of her abortion, ending with the sentence “I felt sick and empty but, most of all, I felt relieved,” her relief palpable.

Filled with tension is “The Morning After” by Andrea Rinard, a mother supporting her daughter after her daughter’s assault, the desire to protect her battling with the knowledge that she must let her daughter make her own choices.

The stories continue, each different, each important. The editors include links to pro-choice organizations after every piece, inviting readers to continue to support the choices others make for their bodies, all as different and important and valid as the stories Jellyfish Review presents.

 

Review by Katy Haas

Published June 16, 2019
bicycle race lugoIn “Bicycle/ Race: Transportation, Culture and Resistance,” Dr. Adonia Lugo brings her anthropology dissertation research into a readable and accessible book, documenting the intersection of race, transportation inequality and bicycling. As a mixed race Chicanx, having grown up in Orange County, California, Lugo explores resistance against car culture as well as her own place in bike activism. Where does she stand in a majority white-led movement? Lugo’s book forces readers to understand the stakes of cars versus bikes, with particular consideration to history, race, and who gets left behind. Read more...
Published June 14, 2019

author is dead ches smithIt’s nothing new for a novel’s key character to share his name with the book’s author. Past examples are Stephen King in Song of Savannah, Paul Auster in New York Trilogy, and Philip Roth in Operation Shylock. But Ches Smith’s protagonist, Ches Smith, is something apart and definitely a standout character in Smith’s new book, The Author is Dead. Try not to speculate on any detail in this book that might be drawn from the author’s life, except that it’s about a writer who writes a book titled The Author is Dead.

We meet Ches, the character, at Sugarville Mall. He carries his writings, his so called “loose-leaf chronicles,” in a black binder that’s always with him. Ches is intrigued by Thalia, lead singer with the Zombie Cowgirls, a “punk-country fusion” band. One short conversation with her and he’s hooked. It won’t be giving anything away to tell that Thalia very soon becomes his ghostly muse, since her otherworldly presence is key to this story’s setup.

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Published June 13, 2019

booth v13 winter 2019The cover of Booth’s Winter 2019 issue invites readers in with little square scenes of bright colors and caricatures, with text promising the Nonfiction Prize winners inside. Of the four pieces selected by Judge Brian Oliu, two touched me most: “A Fractured Atlas” by Alex Clark and “Remember the Earth” by Angelique Stevens.

In the first, Clark recounts the fractured memory of being molested as a child by a friend’s father. Points of view are manipulated. “Her” becomes “you” which sometimes slips into first person: “you grow my nails out.” Throughout the piece, names are redacted, reduced to “(    )” for the friend and “//    //” for the father/abuser. The switches in POV, these redactions, font changes, and layering of text and image parallel the ways memory works. Details are left out, forgotten, rearranged, repeated, layered with other memories. Each page feels like decoding a map, like uncovering a new memory, a truly inventive piece of nonfiction.

In “Remember the Earth,” Stevens explores the idea of death, of what and who we leave behind. After her sister Gina’s suicide, she faces their tumultuous relationship and the years, months, and days that lead up to Gina’s death. She tries make sense of the timeline that brought both of them there. A tender and intimate work, Stevens packs so much raw emotional energy into one short piece, I had to read it in little bursts.

Both deserved of placing in the Nonfiction Prize, Clark and Stevens peel back layers of their memories. While constructed completely differently, both give stark and honest examinations of a moment in each of their lives.

 

Review by Katy Haas

Published June 10, 2019

southeast review v37 n1 2019Spanning four pages of The Southeast Review (37.1), Tiana Clark’s “Gentrification” conjures up hidden details, the poem’s speaker talking in wisps, the ghosts of a summer past haunting the neighborhood in East Nashville where she used to live and which has now been gentrified. The speaker discusses the ways in which her body—a woman of color’s body—fits into this forgotten space:

                  and I had never tried cocaine before,
        until you tricked me [ . . . ]
and other men laughed and you laughed and I laughed too,

but I didn’t know what was so funny. I didn’t know
when something was at my expense. I was the only girl there too.
                I’ve always been the only girl there
    inside a house with men, being duped by men, waxing their backs [ . . . ]

Repeatedly, she finds herself in moments like this, moments of emotional or physical violence: her boyfriend feeds her then calls her fat, she does drugs in a backseat, she has drunken fights in the street, she reveals the “vulnerable part” of her neck as she once “grasp[ed] at white men for attention,” her body becoming another gentrified space.

The scenes come quickly as if Clark is quickly scrawling these memories down before she can forget them, wrapping readers in the heat and tension of that summer, unflinching as she reveals the underbelly, the ugliness, the truths about her home and herself. Take some time to sink into “Gentrification,” then, like me, check out Clark’s books of poetry: I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood (University of Pittsburgh Press, September 2018), and Equilibrium (Bull City Press, 2016).

 

Review by Katy Haas

Published June 08, 2019

big muddy v18 n2Big Muddy has proven to be one of my most favorite journals to read. The topics of its many stories and poems speak to that downhome, simpler type of life, even if sometimes it may not be a positive image or experience for those involved.

Within its pages, you’ll find fiction, poetry, and essays that really make you think about life and the situations we find ourselves in. Most of the work and topics are directly related to the ten states bordering the Mississippi River, all the way from the U.S./Canada border to the Gulf Coast through Louisiana.

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Published June 06, 2019

cape rock 2019It only takes looking at some of the poem titles in The Cape Rock #47 to get that this slim volume published out of Southeast Missouri State University is poetry by and for the people: “Dad’s Skoal Can” and “Song of the Opossum” by January Pearson; “Toilet Cubicle” by Steve Denehan; “Trimming My Father’s Toenails” by Cecil Sayre; “Long Distance Dating for the Elderly” by Mark Rubin. Not meaning to be dismissive in perhaps attributing these works as common, the craft and skill exhibited in them speaks to the draw of the publication and the selective capabilities of a strong editorial staff.

There are many single stunning contributions: Danielle Hanson’s poem titled “How to Tell This Wilted Dogwood Petal From Starlight” continues “Both have fallen from some level of sky. / Lay down and let’s discuss this rationally.” commanding the reader’s experience of the tangible and intangible; the three lines of “Years Later” by Ryan Pickney will leave readers speechless; Jeff Hardin’s “This Only Place” examines a series of moments under the poet’s microscope, opening, “This easy weightlessness along the earth I owe / to having heard the heron‘s wings the moment / it alighted then decided otherwise and lifted off.”

Offering multiple poems by individual writers is a welcome attribute, and the closing four by Claire Scott exemplify the ability of many of the poets included to manage a range of subject and style. Her poignant “At Eighty” reads at a bit of a romp thanks to line breaks like:

webs stitched
with tar
nished moments
emptied
of light
spun with mum
bled strands
of prayer to
missing gods
shape
less days

At 86 pages, 43 poets, 69 poems: The Cape Rock is a venerable journal of poetry that both makes connections and distinctions.

 

Review by Denise Hill

Published June 05, 2019

wonderling bartok“Have you been unexpectedly burdened by a recently orphaned or unclaimed creature? Worry not! We have just the solution for you!” Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures!

Author/illustrator Mira Bartók’s debut novel follows the story of a one-eared fox groundling (human-animal hybrid) named Thirteen. As if having one ear isn’t bad enough, Thirteen was abandoned in a grim-filled orphanage under the control of a wretched villainess called Miss Carbunkle. But the turn of events led to unexpected paths, both good and bad. Thirteen’s gut-wrenching encounters with brutality, deprivation, and unappetizing Dickensian roads are intertwined with gentle humor, uplifting vibes, and epic journeys.

Music and friendship play essential roles in the story. This explains why, in spite of the rouge-ish undertakings of rouge-ish characters, any reader will surely immerse oneself with the rollercoaster ride of events and keep the pages turning. Bartók’s writing draws rich kaleidoscopes of characters, steampunk setting, and sensational quests. The delightful illustrations brought a new level of charm to this adventure, making the whole experience undeniably jam-packed with surprises to the brim.

Blend in Miss Peregrine’s characters with the woeful mishaps in A Series of Unfortunate Events, then top it off with the legendary tale of King Arthur, and there you have it! The Wonderling! In a nutshell, The Wonderling takes its readers into a world of infinite possibilities.

Don’t let people tell you that this book is just for children, because adventure has NO age limit!

 

Review by Mary Kristine P. Garcia

Published June 03, 2019

anthony oliveira dayspringIt was the illustration by Ricardo Bessa that originally drew me to Anthony Oliveira’s [pictured] short and poetic “Dayspring.” The image caught my eye as I scrolled down the front page of Hazlitt: browns and tans and reds, one man lying on another’s chest, their beards brushing; the embracing figures exude warmth and intimacy as sunlight filters through leaves above them. The story behind this depiction imagines (an unnamed) John, “the disciple whom he loved,” as Jesus’ lover in the days before the crucifixion.

Writing in short poetic bursts, Oliveira roots the story in two religious parables or folktales, one involving a donkey, the other involving a nun. The conversation shows Jesus’ words in red, the two speaking in modern vernacular, including “dudes” and “what the fucks,” making the characters more relatable. The red is striking on the screen whenever Jesus speaks, and these two stories give us something to come back to—something to be anchored to in the chaos that follows.

I couldn’t help thinking of Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles while reading “Dayspring” as both pieces of writing display a mythological queer relationship of love and gentleness with a strong foreshadowing of violence and tragedy. Knowing the story of Jesus and his crucifixion, you can guess where Oliveira ends up taking us: to Gethsemane where everything falls apart, where Jesus is arrested, and the chain of events leading to his death begins, only this time we see it through the eyes of the one he loved.

While the piece is short and a sparsely written, the language is strong and beautifully built up. Oliveira writes with a poetic voice that eases readers in and creates the warmth that Ricardo Bessa’s illustrations kindle.

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