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NewPages Book Reviews

Reviews of newly published and forthcoming independent and university press titles.

Posted June 02, 2016

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Cathy Eisenhower
  • Date Published October 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-937027-52-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 120pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Kimberly Ann Priest

I was specifically looking forward to reviewing a copy of Cathy Eisenhower’s newest book of poetry, Distance Decay, because it addresses the traumatic effects of sexual assault and violence on victims. Eisenhower is a therapist in Washington D.C. who undoubtedly has extensive experience providing therapeutic counseling to survivors of rape, molestation, physical abuse, and various other violating acts. As a survivor myself, I anticipated poetry that would evoke a sense of what it feels like to struggle with negative self-talk, victim blaming, memory fragmentation, disassociation, and depression; however, while Eisenhower is certainly engaging these personal conflicts, as a survivor, I feel unnecessarily alienated from her text.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jeff Vande Zande
  • Date Published April 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-­0982933565
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 154pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Benjamin Champagne

Jeff Vande Zande burns the fat off our souls. At a recent poetry reading, the poet in residence, read a rather lofty ten lines about an experience in the California wilderness. Everyone stared ahead with reverence and when the poem finished, it was hard to tell if anyone noticed. He then told an anecdote about the origin of the poem. He used unpolished language and terse, powerful verbs, and, if I remember correctly, some foul language. Everyone laughed and looked around. I asked myself, “Why didn’t the guy write that as the poem?” Enter Vande Zande, who doesn’t settle for trying to sound like something. As a matter of fact, he almost eliminates pretense to a fault. He calls Detroit a “city of empty stories atop empty stories,” and in doing so strips the mystery from all of it while also alluding to that great hollow tale.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Darrin Doyle
  • Date Published February 2015
  • ISBN-13 9780986092213
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 170pp
  • Price $11.99
  • Review by Kimberly Ann Priest

Phobia is defined, by my handy dictionary app, as “an extreme or irrational fear or aversion to something.” It’s debatable whether or not Darrin Doyle, intends to further encourage and perhaps even expand the catalog of possible phobias one might adopt in a lifetime, or whether he hopes that by delving into the darkest regions of psychic subconscious, his stories might locate the irrationality of a reader’s particular fear and give it permission to come into the light. In either case, his collection of short stories and flash fictions entitled The Dark Will End the Dark promises to satisfy the most twisted reader and the busily-untwisting reader alike.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Marylee MacDonald
  • Date Published January 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-940333-08-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 248pp
  • Price $16.99
  • Review by Sheelonee Banerjee

Relationships are very complicated. They can either make us feel secure or alienate us. They define us in many ways and also become the symbolic representations of inner worlds we must face all by ourselves if we have to transcend and reach out to the real, brutal world outside. The collection of stories, Bonds of Love & Blood by Marylee MacDonald, explores intricate relationships within and outside familial ties and their effects on individuals who are involved in them. What sets this collection apart is the dominating theme of the collection: Fractured, failed, dead or dying, estranged relationships. These ties are problematic and layered for they cannot be salvaged, but they have a certain degree of intensity and beauty that makes them open-ended and real.

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Marc Vincenz
  • Date Published June 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9861370-0-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 112pp
  • Price $14.50
  • Review by Dana Johnson

Marc Vincenz’s eighth collection of poetry, Becoming the Sound of Bees, is rich with disorienting imagery and descriptive language. Vincenz uses vocabulary reminiscent of an album by The Mars Volta, yet the music here is uniquely his own. Readers are transported to variously strange landscapes and introduced to poems brimming with noise.

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Hala Alyan
  • Date Published September 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-62557-939-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 93pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Heath Bowen

The world's crying wolf when the words from a musical memory muscle through heartbreak and Middle Eastern melancholy before something sensational occurs: a compelling fresh poetic voice materializes. Hala Alyan's Four Cities is a powerful reflection of a perception only seen from foreign skies. It somehow interweaves punk rock romanticism with a soft touch of bluegrass sensibilities (think Patti Smith with a touch of Old Crow Medicine Show). Her firecracker point of view radiates like Fourth of July on LSD. There is a lyrical sentimentality that shines sunlight over shadows. There is also tenderness in some passages where apathy would normally preside. Her poetical politics are worth every poignant line. "Sestina for December" reads like Parker prose but shines like a youthful Etal Adnan.

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Nina Lindsay
  • Date Published April 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-939639-10-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Ryo Yamaguchi

There is an easy-going quality to the poems in Nina Lindsay’s Because that make this one of the friendliest books this reviewer has read in some time. Lush but clean, emotional but evenly wrought, engaging a diversity of styles over its five sections but with a voice that feels continuous and familiar, these are the sorts of poems one can fall into a deep absorption with. That is not to say that these are intellectually easy—indeed, it is the subtle peculiarities and soft surprises we find throughout that really propel us forward through these pages, and I can’t help but think that this would be an interesting book to teach in advanced courses, precisely because it is so unassuming.

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Mark Yakich
  • Date Published November 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-5013-0949-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 222pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Valerie Wieland

Mark Yakich chose Carl Sandburg’s admonition, “Beware of advice, even this,” as his epigraph for Poetry: A Survivor’s Guide. But don’t jump to conclusions. This book is full of good advice, interesting asides and lively humor, while at the same time offering options. For example, Yakich writes: “Work on one poem at a sitting.” In the next paragraph it’s, “Work on multiple poems at a sitting.”

  • Subtitle Memories of America’s Most Hated Vice - Unfiltered Stories
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  • Book Type Anthology Edited
  • by Lizzy Miles
  • Date Published January 2016
  • ISBN-13 9781937574086
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $12.95
  • Review by David Breithaupt

Before we get started and you make suppositions from the title of this book, allow me to quote editor Lizzy Miles—founder of the Death Café of central Ohio where any participant is welcome to come and discuss issues of mortality—from the introduction: “Despite any appearances to the contrary, this is not a pro-smoking book; neither is it an anti-smoking book. This is not a commentary on smoking in society: this book captures our personal love/hate relationships with cigarettes and the habit of smoking.”

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Katie Cortese
  • Date Published September 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-942004-17-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 154pp
  • Price $20.99
  • Review by Allyson Hoffman

Girl Power and Other Short-Short Stories is divided into three sections exploring the trials and triumphs of a particular season in women’s lives: maidenhood, motherhood, and matronhood. Although the collection is organized in this way, Katie Cortese’s stories offer a landscape of women whose struggles vary widely. Some women deal with issues of sex and rape; others live in poverty or affluence; some are married, others are single; some are childless, others are mothers. Furthermore, the short-short stories in the collection slide between realistic and fantastic, reflecting Cortese’s ability to craft strong characters and plots regardless of genre.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Toni Graham
  • Date Published September 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8203-4850-6
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 152pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Allyson Hoffman

Through eight carefully linked stories, Toni Graham depicts the rituals of small-town Oklahoma and how its inhabitants move forward through life with—or in perhaps spite of—grief. The stories in The Suicide Club each follow one of four suicide survivors: a man whose father swallowed pills; a mother whose teenage son hung himself; a woman whose boyfriend shot himself; and the survivor group leader, whose father asphyxiated himself. The group’s Wednesday night meetings are only a sliver of full and messy lives as the members work through addictions, infidelity, impotency, and questions of faith.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by John Smolens
  • Date Published February 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-61186-197-6
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 267pp
  • Price $26.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet

John Smolens, a Marquette, Michigan writer, has written three novels set in the UP. The first, Cold, was about an escaped convict and his latest, Wolf’s Mouth, has to do with an Italian prisoner who escapes from a POW camp in Au Train, near Munising. Prisoners of war numbered 400,000 in camps across the U.S., and more than one camp existed in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. This well-written novel offers fascinating information about the camps and especially how they were run, but is also a thriller with insights into human nature.

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