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 March 1, 2013

  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Cynthia Cruz
  • Date Published October 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1884800979
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 79pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
Have you listened to those early songs by Cat Power where the speaker lists the names of friends from her youth who grew up abused, turning to sex and drugs way too early in life? These poems by Cynthia Cruz are just like those songs. I’ve discovered that Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) never quite had friends with those exact experiences or went through all that miserable hell herself. It doesn’t bother me too much either. The songs are still damn good. Powerful, moving, and quite evocative, the poems of Cynthia Cruz equally match all the grime and dark foreboding of Cat Power’s best licks. The Glimmering Room hits the same raw nerve, again and again:
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Young Adult Fiction
  • by Sherry Shahan
  • Date Published July 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0762446094
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 224pp
  • Price $9.95
  • Review by Karen Seehaus Papson
Hey Mr. Tambourine Man, pick up a copy of Sherry Shahan’s book Purple Daze and smell the incense and peppermints. Equally appealing to readers who lived through the 1960s and to those who didn’t but want to know what it was really like, Shahan has created a compelling chronicle of a single tumultuous year: 1965. This particular window to the past is unusual for a couple of reasons. First, Purple Daze features not one main character, but six. Ziggy, Mickey, Cheryl, Nancy, Don and Phil are a group of friends growing up in Los Angeles. The second thing that sets this book apart is the fact that Shahan has chosen to write much of the novel in verse. Our protagonists share their stories through poems, notes, letters, journal entries, and song lyrics. While this format might seem an odd choice from the outside, Shahan’s skill and range engenders a level of intimacy with each character that is surprising given the brief snatches of information shared in a given moment. The reader feels the drama as the paths of these six friends diverge and darken with the weight of the year’s events. Ziggy writes:
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Michael du Plessis
  • Date Published December 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-193425436-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 102pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Trena Machado
This book of thirteen short essay-stories, The Memoirs of JonBenet by Kathy Acker by Michael du Plessis, is dense with conflated cultural images that construct an alternate unreal-real reality of consumer America. The story’s location is Boulder, Colorado, in a a snowglobe, the kind bought at a “cheap airport gift store and stuck at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.” Boulder is also the place where JonBenet, a six-year-old beauty pageant queen and possibly one of the narrators, was murdered on Christmas Eve in 1996. The other possible narrator of this “fiction inside a fiction” is the dead writer Kathy Acker. Then, there is another narrator, as JonBenet and Kathy Acker discuss: “Somewhere a narrator still worries, almost like a grown-up.” These narrators “out” each other and often call attention to the narrative as a narrative.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Peter Geye
  • Date Published October 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60953-084-6
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 294pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
With its depiction of wintry weather along the shores of Lake Superior and even a view of Isle Royale, Michiganders (and Wisconsinites) will relate to Peter Geye’s novel The Lighthouse Road even though its setting is Northern Minnesota. Geye is a native of Duluth, and some of the novel’s action takes place there, but mostly it alternates between 1895-96 and 1910-37 in the lakeside town of Gunflint, near a logging camp called Burnt Wood Camp.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Leslie Adrienne Miller
  • Date Published September 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-622-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 120pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by H. V. Cramond
I’ve been thinking a lot about masculinity lately, more specifically the particularly violent attitudes that have been swirled into recent discussions about mental illness, gun laws, sexual violence, and football. In this miasma, masculinity is presented as problem, as a relation of actions based on constructed ideals. But of course, a person is not a problem, or not only a problem, and especially not to his mother.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Sam Savage
  • Date Published February 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-312-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 152pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Courtney McDermott
Sam Savage’s narrator Harold Nivenson is, in Harold’s own words, a minor artist. Yet The Way of the Dog, though a slim novel, is anything but a minor work.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Andrei Codrescu
  • Date Published November 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9838683-3-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 168pp
  • Price $25.00
  • Review by David Breithaupt
If you are reading this review, chances are good that books, those things with lots of words crammed between two covers, are probably an integral part of your life. You live with them, thumb through their pages, pass them on to friends, and—if you have enough—make furniture with them (as do I). If this describes you in any way, you will doubtless do yourself a favor by reading Andrei Codrescu’s take on the printed word both past and present, how it lives, where it goes, and the very nature of archives. Bibliodeath is also a portrait of a life lived with books and words. At the end of his tome, Codrescu states: “It is still possible, for as long it took you to read this book, to distinguish the quickly vanishing border between the real and the virtual. This essay is a history of how I got to that border, and how I moved to one or another side of it.” Indeed, Codrescu surveys with depth and humor this very transition we are living through, the digitization of our words.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kristina Marie Darling
  • Date Published August 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60964-104-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 62pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
American artist Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) has long been a favorite among poets and writers. His work first appeared in art shows and galleries advertised as surrealist, frequently accompanied by and/or incorporating text. In his own lifetime, he directly courted the friendship and patronage of poets such as Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop. In addition, poets ranging in diversity from John Ashbery to Charles Simic have also written about the attraction his work holds for them and/or composed poems in his honor. Cornell also completed a number of various homages to poet Emily Dickinson. In short, there’s poems-a-plenty in existence that interact one way or another with Cornell and his work. By joining in such company, Kristina Marie Darling is taking the risk that her work be held to a similarly high standard. Or rather, in composing a book so directly addressing Cornell’s work, the assumption is that Darling herself is aware she’s aiming high and must be willing to hold her own work to these standards.
newpages-footer-logo

We welcome any/all Feedback.