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Book Reviews by Title - B (121)

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Paula Bomer
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9779343-7-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 176pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Elena Spagnolie
In her collection of short stories entitled Baby and Other Stories, Paula Bomer explores the dark underbelly of marriage and parenthood and fearlessly puts to paper horrific human desires. Anger plays out through violent (and sometimes sexual) acts and, even more dangerously, through toxic passive aggression. There is a stark contrast between what her characters say and what they think, and real communication takes a backseat to resentment and isolation. She raises questions that aren’t easy to answer, as in the title story “Baby”:
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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 Jerry Stahl
  • Date Published February 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-098549-0249
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by David Breithaupt
Jerry Stahl’s new novel, Bad Sex on Speed, represents an evolutionary step in his prose style. It’s a bit like the jump William Burroughs made from his straightforward first novel, Junky, to his famous and less conventional masterpiece Naked Lunch. Stahl has written a book attempting to match his words to the hallucinatory state of mind of an amphetamine user wafting through a state of psychosis. It’s spooky, the way he morphs into the minds of his crumbling characters. This is a narrative born, I suspect, from experience, but who knew Stahl swung this way? Readers of his oeuvre will be familiar with his narcotic portraits and episodes of heroin, the very opposite end of the spectrum from the territory he explores in this novel. This book’s Library of Congress classification will still fall under the general heading of “drug abuse,” but you won’t find much nodding in this story line, though you may wish a few of the characters within would catch a few hours of sleep.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Mather Schneider
  • Date Published March 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-1-931307-36-9
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 31pp
  • Price $7.00
  • Review by DM O'Connor
Best not to imagine your love dead
or to put literature ahead of life.
Best not to write certain things down.
—from “Cartas de Amor”

If forced to write a narrative log-line for Mather Schneider’s A Bag of Hands, Rattle Poetry’s 2017 Chapbook Prize selection, it would be simple: Cab driver marries Mexican, life ensues. But that is veneer.

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Moira Egan
  • Date Published December 2009
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 24pp
  • Price $9.00
  • Review by Jeremy Benson
It’s odd to start a collection of poems by politely turning down a pick up line, but Moira Egan just comes right out with it in the opening of the first of two dozen sonnets: “A glass of wine, a napkin, and a pen / are all I need.” But something – the cadence or the spitfire wit of the delivery, or maybe the way I imagine the speaker looking up and coyly drawing a strand of hair behind her ear as she flatly rejects her suitor – the way I, like a bully’s toady, am drawn to rejection – causes me to push past her declination and further into a formal introduction of the chapbook:
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  • Book Type Novella
  • by Hesh Kestin
  • Date Published September, 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-0979312359
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 182pp
  • Price $13.95
  • Review by Laura Di Giovine
In Hesh Kestin’s Based on a True Story, three novellas set during the World War II era take readers on a journey from East Africa to the South Seas to Hollywood. A former foreign correspondent, Kestin peppers his tales with exotic plots and resilient characters.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Reginald Dwayne Betts
  • Date Published September 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-935536-65-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 72pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Dan Schell
Reginald Dwayne Betts rose from criminal obscurity to a current man of letters with an award-winning memoir and debut poetry collection, a Pushcart Prize, and now his second book of poetry, Bastards of the Reagan Era. The title conjures the time period of much of the work—Betts’s childhood in the 1980s—when he participated in a carjacking that put him in prison for the better part of a decade. Charged as an adult, sixteen year-old Betts spent ten days in solitary confinement while waiting for trial, where he discovered poetry after coming across an anthology of black poets being passed around. Soon after, he began writing heavily, and this dedication appears in his vivid imagery that often bites at the core of longstanding societal issues for urban youth.
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  • Book Type Novel
  • by Jean-Philippe Toussaint
  • Translated From French
  • by Nancy Amphoux and Paul De Angelis
  • Date Published November 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1564785183
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 102pp
  • Price $12.95
  • Review by Josh Maday
The nameless narrator of Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s debut novel, The Bathroom, takes up residence in his bathroom and refuses to leave, while others attend to him and try in vain to coax him from the bathtub, where he cultivates the “quietude of [his] abstract life.” The premise brings to mind Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov, the 19th-Century Russian nobleman who does not get out of bed for the first 150 pages of the novel. However, while The Bathroom is no satire, neither does Toussaint weigh it down with seriousness.
  • Subtitle An Unlikely Manual for Erasing Heartbreak
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by J.M. Farkas
  • Date Published April 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-1-4494-8976-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 112pp
  • Price $14.99
  • Review by Denise Hill

Be Brave: An Unlikely Manual for Erasing Heartbreak is tremendous. I came upon this volume by sheer dumb luck—through a professional discussion board on which I was posting my first ever reply after lurking for years—to J.M. Farkas, who had written her first ever post to the group “looking to connect with teachers teaching Beowulf” who were open to unexpected ways of approaching the text. Yes, please! But, as I learned, Be Brave isn’t just about Beowulf. In fact, it’s hardly about Beowulf per say. It is a complex, layered work, starting with its origin.

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Karen Chase
  • Date Published March 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1933880068
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Micah Zevin
Karen Chase’s second collection of poetry is not only about the significance of bears in terms of humanity’s barbaric need to destroy them through poaching, it is also a metaphorical and allegorical device that permits the author to impart tremendously beautiful narratives, often centered on the most painful and burdensome subjects in her own life. Her poems are emotional songs that dig their claws into your flesh until you simply respond or comprehend what is at stake. These poems of remembrance bridge the gap between the world of the beast, the bear, and the not-so-dissimilar world of human beings often overcome with the same primal tendencies.
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