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 November 02, 2015

  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jen Beagin
  • Date Published October 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8101-3207-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Rhonda Browning White
Loneliness: it’s the one thing, above all things, that twenty-three-year-old Mona knows all about. That, and the proper way to clean house. In the first chapter of Jen Beagin’s Pretend I’m Dead, “Hole,” Mona is hard at work in Lowell, Massachusetts, splitting her lonesome hours between work as a self-employed housekeeper and a volunteer who provides clean needles to drug addicts. She’s particularly fond of one junkie, whom she dubs “Mr. Disgusting,” eventually falling headlong for his hopelessly fatalistic charm.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Karen Rizzo
  • Date Published July 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-938849-30-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
The story of Famous Baby focuses on Ruth Sternberg, the “First Mother of Mommy Blogging,” and her daughter/blog subject, Abbie. Resentful of her mother’s appropriation of her life for blog material, eighteen-year-old Abbie has kidnapped her dying grandmother to live with her in an effort to prevent Ruth from recording and blogging her death. Ruth is understandably panicked by the disappearance of her mother and daughter, not least of all because without either of them, she is at a loss for subject matter. The plot is further complicated by the appearance of Eric, a sweet, young, aspiring filmmaker whose interest in making a film about Abbie reminds her of her mother a little more than she’d like. She seems to find his interest flattering and off-putting by turns.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Dario Fo
  • Date Published August 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60945-274-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 240pp
  • Price $17.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Dario Fo, the 1997 Italian Nobel Laureate for Literature—known for being an actor, playwright, comedian, director, songwriter and political campaigner—has now written his first novel, The Pope’s Daughter, about one of the most infamous ladies in history, Lucrezia Borgia. This novel, which claims to be the real truth, gives another side of Borgia. She will appeal to contemporary women as a real survivor in her turbulent times, but everyone should be able to enjoy the sardonic Greek chorus comments on the machinations of the early popes and dukes ruling Italy during the Renaissance, behavior which has parallels in today’s national and international politics.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Rod Smith
  • Date Published April 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-940696089
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 92pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Benjamin Champagne
I’ve become more accustomed to seeing flarf poems performed via YouTube. I was beginning to believe that it was a medium designed for the internet purely, a meta commentary on how commentary works in this day. In Touché, Rod Smith weaves the internet generation together with Robert Creeley and William Carlos Williams. The old Yeat’s nugget, “Poetry makes nothing happen” is contorted and refracted through all of Smith’s lines to discuss how the great nothing is happening all around us.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jonathan Fink
  • Date Published May 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-938103-02-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 76pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Dan Schell
The poems in Jonathan Fink’s debut book The Crossing were a decade in the making, and it shows with well-crafted language and imagery that broadens expectations of modern poetic narrative, while still carrying a torch for more formal styles of verse. An artist takes his whole life to construct a debut work, and Fink himself has stated that the main struggle in a first outing is to know when to stop fiddling with the pieces and release them from the nest. But Fink’s patience has paid off and he has made all the right moves here, even garnering an introduction from former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Sarah Kennedy
  • Date Published October 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-910282-09-0
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 293pp
  • Price $27.99
  • Review by Allyson Parsons
Perhaps I should start by saying that City of Ladies is the second book in Sarah Kennedy’s “The Cross and the Crown” series, and I have shamefully not read the first. I started this book believing I might do its review a disservice by not reading the first installment of the series, but by chapter three or four it was clear that City of Ladies can stand on its own. The book follows recently reformed ex-nun, Catherine Havens Overton, and her life with husband William Overton. At her new estate, she has employed her former sisters and cares for them, who have nowhere else to go. When one is found dead, she fears for the safety of the rest of her ladies. But another murder and an investigation will not deter husband William from his plans to gain a place in King Henry VII’s court, in which Catherine plays a key role. With his assurance that the murderer will be found, Catherine reluctantly agrees to leave Overton House to serve Princesses Mary and Elizabeth Tudor.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Anthology Edited
  • by Robert Olen Butler & Tara L. Masih
  • Date Published October 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-938466-625
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 145pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Valerie Wieland
Here’s the solution for people who love to read fiction but haven’t the time or inclination to plow through a novel or even a standard length short story. The Best Small Fictions 2015 lets you peruse 55 short stories—some are as tiny as a paragraph or a sentence. The longest stories in this digest-size book are four pages.
  • Subtitle Poems in Conversation & a Conversation
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Molly Peacock and Amy M. Clark
  • Date Published October 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-1-940646-00-8
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 34pp
  • Price $20.00
  • Review by Valerie Wieland
A Turn Around the Mansion Grounds: Poems in Conversation & a Conversation is the third chapbook in a series that pairs two female poets, one well-known and the other a rising talent. Molly Peacock is widely anthologized and published in leading literary magazines in addition to her six volumes of poetry. She also helped create New York’s Poetry in Motion program. A decade ago, Peacock mentored Amy M. Clark. Meanwhile Clark’s poetry book won the 2009 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Meyer Levin
  • Date Published April 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1941493021
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 480pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Meyer Levin (1905-1981) wrote novels, plays, and the Israel Haggadah for Passover still in use and in print for over 40 years. Fig Tree Books, a publisher specializing in titles relating to the American Jewish experience, recently re-issued Levin’s Compulsion, his 1956 bestseller fictionalizing the names (including his own as a reporter for The Chicago Daily News) but not the facts of the Leopold and Loeb murder trial. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1959) and Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song (1979) followed the same author-in-the-nonfiction/novelization crime formula, producing some of their best writing. After subsequent “Crimes of the Century” involving celebrities and troubled young men both rich and poor that the media treats like celebrities, Compulsion is a reflective experience.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ada Limón
  • Date Published September 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-57131-471-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 128pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Dana Johnson
Ada Limón’s fourth collection of poems, Bright Dead Things, faces discontentment, nostalgia, and longing in the face of a changing environment. The speaker examines her place in a varied world littered with its fried pickles, wide expanse of blue skies, fields full of fireflies and the stars they mirror. Limón brings us a world we recognize. Where the death of a loved one comes flooding back over margaritas at a Mexican restaurant, where animals suffer, where we leave small pleasures in old cities, and where life goes on despite all of it.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Hoa Nguyen
  • Date Published July 2015
  • ISBN-13 N/A
  • Format Chapbook
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Ryo Yamaguchi
I have always found Hoa Nguyen’s poems surprisingly comfortable to inhabit, considering the challenges they can offer, and Tells of the Crackling, a lovely little hand-stitched chapbook from Ugly Duckling Presse, is no different. Spare, elliptical—not exactly breezy, but roomy—these poems are a bit like walking over a brick path gone uneven from the undergrowth, fresh and tentative vegetal shoots sending trajectories of thought this way and that. Indeed, there is a dual “crackling” of both spring and autumn that characterize the poems, a light and almost sickly feel, a mind not quite right, the sound of tea being made in the background.
  • Image Image
  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kathleen Halme
  • Date Published March 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-936970-31-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 83pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Ryo Yamaguchi
Kathleen Halme’s My Multiverse opens with a marvelous set-piece, a multi-part cycle (that comprises the entirety of the first section of the six-sectioned book) titled “City of Roses” that begins with that tender invitational, “Dear,” and from there pans its camera over the big and small, visiting with different characters and embracing the ambience of different scenes all within the same city, Halme’s own Portland, Oregon. It’s a gesture in line with the great urban works, like Ulysses, which endeavor to sketch the cultural, emotional, and physical anatomy of a city: “Blocks and blocks of ornate iron-front buildings. / Shanghai traps and tunnels. / Iron horse rings to which someone / has hitched tiny plastic palominos.”
newpages-footer-logo

We welcome any/all Feedback.