Home » Newpages Blog » Book News » Page 2

YA Representation from Chloe Gong

Guest Post by Skylar Edwards.

Shakespeare meets Shanghai in this Romeo and Juliet retelling with a monstrous twist. Chloe Gong modernizes a familiar, yet different, plot sequence, with relevant characters and battles against colonialism, while honoring classical themes: love, hate, and loyalty. Roma and Juliette align to fight a monster, while navigating the dangers of a blood feud, gangster-run Shanghai, and foreign powers. As heirs to the competing gangs, Roma and Juliette have the most to lose and the stakes have never been higher.

Juliette returns from America to find that the life she once knew has changed and she struggles to redefine herself within Shanghai. Her loyalty to the Scarlet Gang is tested against the disputing territories quickly rising to power: rival gangs, communists, and colonizers. Tensions rise as she is forced to collaborate with her former lover, Roma of the White Flowers.

Gong paves the way for YA representation and creates authenticity by normalizing diverse characters, each with a unique perspective. In the story’s web, intertwined with queer and cultural identities, readers discover the Scarlet Gang are Chinese, while The White Flowers are primarily Russian. Sparks emerge between same-sex characters and readers discover that one gang member identifies as transgender.

Readers assume the antagonist is the monster who has released a plague of madness on Shanghai. However, Gong uses the monster-hunt trope to highlight who the real enemy is: each other. Two lovers and liars must put aside their differences, and convince others to do the same, before it is too late. Readers are left with a disastrous ending, where competing territories turn on each other and release the real monsters into Shanghai.

“Men are sometimes masters of their own fates.” —Shakespeare

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. Margaret K. McElderry Books, November 2020.

Reviewer bio: Primarily a bookish fanatic working with nonprofits, Skylar is also a micro-influencer on BookTok; follow TwiceReadTales for more!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Exploring the Depths of the Voice

Guest Post by Brooke M. Smith.

Poet and essayist Jessica Sabo explores the depths of the voice within her collection of poems. A Body of Impulse offers a magnifying lens into a woman’s life reflections. An Adelaide Literary Award in Poetry finalist (2020), Sabo lays bare a rawness leaving the reader to feel commiseration with her protagonist.

In “What I Should Have Said Instead of ‘Nothing,'” Sabo’s use of metaphors and imagery detail the pain and process of wanting to be understood:

It is a cancer, mom
eating me alive from the inside like a plague
and I am so raw I can’t feel the pain anymore. I can’t feel anymore. I can’t anymore. This hollowing is the only time I feel whole
and I know–I know! I could fight back if I really tried
and if I really wanted it
but I don’t want it, mom. I get so tired of being the outsider. Tired of living in this body that has
never been a home. I am homesick, mom. I am sick, mom.

Reading these last stanzas of her poem provoked a question most humans ask in life: Who am I? Am I happy with who I am . . . who I’ve become?  Self-acceptance is a process, and a painful one at times. The ending of her poem “Requital spotlights our imperfections as women and being human.  Acceptance of our choices, learning to accept ourselves as whole and worthy, no matter the condition we are in.

Now, it is my naked body in front of a mirror
a road map of
razor scars and stretch marks, faded tattoos
piercings that refuse to close. It is here I am
learning how to say mine without stutter
refusing to apologize for taking up (too               much) sidewalk. Learning to fill the space
reserved for all my apologies.

Jessica Sabo’s beautifully threaded lines leave readers pondering these questions in her three-part poetry collection.

A Body of Impulse by Jessica Sabo. Dancing Girl Press & Studio, 2021.

Reviewer bio: Brooke M. Smith is a librarian who loves cats, coffee, cozy mysteries, camping, and many other things that don’t begin with the letter C.  She also is a poetry editor for 805 Lit + Art Magazine.

A Journey through Food & Culture

Guest Post by Kristina Pudlewski.

Stanley Tucci’s latest book, Taste: My Life Through Food, is wonderful. It takes readers on a journey through food and culture in the early 60’s to present day, 2021.

In the early chapters it talks about Tucci’s family life and what he grew up eating and experiencing in New York. Growing up in an Italian household means fun stories and delicious meals daily. Tucci describes both of these gracefully. His details about the food he grew up eating leaves your mouth watering and it’s extremely helpful that he also includes recipes so you can make the meals he grew up loving, at home with your own families.

I love to eat, but my pockets don’t enjoy the price that some meals cost these days. Taste: My Life Through Food gives insights into ways you can cook amazing meals on a budget and where to go in the United States and abroad to get a good, cheap, filling meal.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a love for cooking and travel. This book talks about both and it shows just how great life can be when surrounded by good food and good company.

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci. Gallery Books, October 2021.

Reviewer bio: I am a Freelance Writer from Illinois. I love to write fiction novels, short stories and poetry. I am currently writing my first novel.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

October 2021 eLitPak :: Tartt First Fiction Award

Screenshot of Livingston Press September, October, November, December 2021 flier for the NewPages eLitPakThis year’s co-winners were Judy Juanita of Oakland, CA. and Schuyler Dickson of Houlka, MS. Their respective books will come out in June. The deadline for the new contest is December 31. Please see our website for details. And see our forthcoming books, also. Credit cards accepted.

View the full October 2021 eLitPak Newsletter.

Call :: Atmosphere Press Seeks Book Manuscripts from Diverse Voices

atmosphere press logoDeadline: Rolling
Atmosphere Press currently seeks book manuscripts from diverse voices. There’s no submission fee, and if your manuscript is selected, we’ll be the publisher you’ve always wanted: attentive, organized, on schedule, and professional. We use a model in which the author funds the publication of the book, but retains 100% rights, royalties, and artistic autonomy. This year Atmosphere authors have received featured reviews with Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist, and have even appeared on a giant billboard in Times Square. Submit your book manuscript at atmospherepress.com.

Extremes of Pleasure and Passion

Guest Post by Vikash Goyal.

George Milles is the mind of the 21st century teen. He is beautiful. He is a boy with no ambitions—unless you count wanting to live in Disneyland as one. He doesn’t know the pathways of his life and is consequently lost midway. He is passive and has a dormant attitude. His beauty is unparalleled and draws boys to him like flies to turds. But with so much attention in his life, it is still lifeless.

Cooper’s semi-autobiographical five book series is inspired by the writings of de Sade, which is quite evident while reading. Closer is the first in the series, perfectly introducing the protagonist George. The book, at times, reads like a pirated version of de Sade’s The 120 Days Of Sodom although nowhere near the majesty of it.

The teens who form the center of the book are disturbed, confused, and fake. They move around like a body without a belly button. Their only solace is in drugs and sex. They know no human bonds and let their death bound lives pass them by embroiled in perpetual flimsy relationships.

The writing is in teen lingo, but reads well enough. The book doesn’t hold on to a proper plot and is written in more of a documentary style. There is a dissection of the mind of the coming-of-age youth, spelling out the conditioning of priority-devoid teens. The book is refreshing in its matter of fact portrayal of homosexuality without the unnecessary drawing of the microscope over their sexuality or struggle.

George, the protagonist, is the thread in the book that binds the different unique characters, who at some point, share a liaison with him. Not one character in the book is sure and positive about his life, including a couple of characters in their forties. The book tries to encapsulate the extremes of pleasure and passion through episodes of gross torture and sexual acts, and, in a couple of cases, even death.

The book can seem to move in circles now and then, ending up becoming a few pages too many. For those that like to experiment.

Closer by Dennis Cooper. Grove, 1990.

Reviewer bio: Vikash Goyal is a writer of prose and poetry, best known for his blog “Kashivology” on WordPress, that chronicles the defining moments in the life of its protagonist, Kashiv, through a series of surrealistic, existential and philosophical prosaic poetry. He also reviews books on Instagram @Kashivology.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

‘Peculiar Heritage’

Guest Post by Chloe Yelena Miller.

DeMisty D. Bellinger’s Peculiar Heritage opens with the title poem. She invites us—at times challenges us—to look with that first line of the title poem, “if you look at her eyes.” The collective heritage of poems moves through slavery, different regions of the US, the African diaspora in Paris, as well as more contemporary violence in America.

The collection is divided into four parts, including a break in part three with protest poems. This almost aside of protest poems, as Part III continues again with a page break, draws attention to the fact that many, if not all of these poems, are already protest poems. Continue reading “‘Peculiar Heritage’”

Experiencing One’s Self

Guest Post by Diana De Jesus.

Nietzsche once remarked, “In the end, one experiences only one’s self.”

The novel Hating Olivia: A Love Story by Mark SaFranko truly emphasizes this notion through the eyes of our main protagonist Max Zajack, a struggling artist and wannabe writer who lives in a rundown apartment in New Jersey. To support himself, Zajack takes on a low-paying job loading trucks for a living and playing gigs in nightclubs and bars. During one of his gigs, he meets Olivia Aphrodite, a literature student who changes his life in more ways than one. Continue reading “Experiencing One’s Self”

Stories of Endurance

Guest Post by Ann Graham.

Eleven short stories mostly first published in well-known literary journals delve into the sinewy reality of our being human animals. The first story explores the emotionally precarious time for female teens. In the second story, “Feast,” Rayna’s miscarriage causes her to experience hallucinations. “I saw the first baby part in a bouquet of marigolds. . . .”

In “Tongues” Zeyah thinks for herself and endures the anger of their pastor and her parents. Gloria is dying of cancer in” The Loss of Heaven,” and Fred doesn’t understand her refusal of more treatments: “He wanted to shake her, grip hard into those bird-boned shoulders until [ . . . ] only a monster would treat a dying person like that.”

In “The Hearts of Enemies” complex mother daughter relationships are derailed with each one’s own private emotions.  In “Outside the Raft” the guilt after a near drowning, “I didn’t know how to apologize for wanting to save my own life.” “Exotics” is the shortest story and, for me, absolutely accusatory of our animalistic capacity for cruelty.

Despite some of the subject matter, the stories are uplifting in that we learn about endurance. Moniz exposes truths about our animal-ness that nobody wants to admit or accept as reality and shows us how we might survive anyway. Dantiel W. Moniz is an author unafraid to poke our corporality and the way it blends with our psyches.

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz. Grove, February 2021.

Reviewer bio: While trying to remain hopeful that democracy will survive, Ann Graham reads and writes in Texas. Once in a while, she comments about a short story on her blog: www.ann-graham.com.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

‘The Cousins’

Guest Post by Jiya Ahuja.

This novel revolves around the Story family residing in gull cove island: a grandmother who owns the entire island, and parents who were disinherited by a mysterious “You know what you did” letter.

Jonah, Aubrey, and Milly are cousins who hardly know each other and have never met their grandmother. So when they receive a letter from their long-lost grandmother inviting them to the island, they aren’t particularly thrilled to go but, their parents see this as a golden opportunity to get back in their mother’s good graces. When they arrive on the island, the cousins realize their grandmother has different plans for them. Here they uncover secrets that lead them to their family’s dark and mysterious past. The entire family has secrets that they wish remained buried.

The story is told from three main points of view and is filled with a lot of twists and turns that keep readers hooked until the very last line. Although some parts felt a little slow-paced, this is still satisfying and entertaining enough. The Cousins is a highly recommended young adult mystery to readers of age 13 and above.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus. Delacorte Press, December 2020..

Reviewer bio: Reach Jiya Ahuja here.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

‘Horodno Burning’

Guest Post by Julie Christine Johnson.

Jews were attacked in a series of pogroms and subjected to systematic oppression during the late nineteenth and early 20th century, scapegoated as the cause of political and economic upheaval. These pogroms and the long history of limiting Jewish movement in Eastern Europe foreshadowed the Holocaust. These awful conditions intensified as nationalist movements and state-sanctioned violence grew.

Textbooks can present us with facts, but literature allows us to feel the stories history hopes we will hear. In his absorbing and graceful debut novel, Horodno Burning, author Michael Freed-Thall brings us into the heart of a family forever transformed by persecution. Continue reading “‘Horodno Burning’”

Board the Bus with Van Horn

Book Review by Katy Haas.

Sometimes it’s important to slow down and not only enjoy the ride, but take in the details and really sit with them. Erica Van Horn does this in her collection of short essays, By Bus.

In By Bus, we’re transported to the bus transporting Van Horn as she describes what she sees from where she sits. “Horse” is just one paragraph long and explains an interaction between two passengers. In “Stuck in Inchicore,” we’re privy to one half of a phone conversation, the caller’s dialogue making up a majority of the essay. “A Never-Married” describes a “Ring-A-Link” bus, basically a phone-ordered bus ride which can take you “fairly straight into town” or “you ride along in the bus as it meanders through the countryside [ . . . ]. It can take as long as one hour to get to town.” We hear about it through Van Horn’s friend of a friend, Carmel, who sometimes takes this bus to meet a man—a man who is stuck on a bus for an hour with nowhere else to go. There is a variety in what the essays cover that keeps the short collection fresh throughout.

By Bus is a book for those of us who take out an earbud at the coffeeshop to eavesdrop on the gossip unfolding at a nearby table of strangers. Every interaction is a tiny glimpse into the window of a stranger’s life. Van Horn’s observations are clear and simple. She sits, she watches, she shares, and then moves onto the next one, never pausing to criticize or question. This is the perfect Sunday read, a reminder to slow down and sit with the changing landscapes and passengers of our own lives with the same gentleness Van Horn does.

By Bus by Erica Van Horn. Ugly Duckling Presse, March 2021.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

September 2021 eLitPak :: Tartt First Fiction Award

Screenshot of Livingston Press September, October, November, December 2021 flier for the NewPages eLitPakThis year’s co-winners were Judy Juanita of Oakland, CA. and Schuyler Dickson of Houlka, MS. Their respective books will come out in June. The deadline for the new contest is December 31. Please see our website for details. And see our forthcoming books, also. Credit cards accepted.

View the full September 2021 eLitPak Newsletter here.

Call :: Atmosphere Press Seeking Book Manuscripts in All Genres

atmosphere press logoDeadline: Rolling
Atmosphere Press currently seeks book manuscripts from diverse voices. There’s no submission fee, and if your manuscript is selected, we’ll be the publisher you’ve always wanted: attentive, organized, on schedule, and professional. We use a model in which the author funds the publication of the book, but retains 100% rights, royalties, and artistic autonomy. This year Atmosphere authors have received featured reviews with Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist, and have even appeared on a giant billboard in Times Square. Submit your book manuscript at atmospherepress.com.

“Finding the Light in the Dark”

The Summer 2021 issue of Kaleidoscope features one book review. Sandra J. Lindow’s “Finding the Light in the Dark,” covers An Eclipse and a Butcher by Ann-Chadwell Humphries (Muddy Ford Press, 2020).

The review begins:

Consisting of thirty-eight poems, and an “Introduction” by Ed Madden, Poet Laureate of Columbia South Carolina, Ann-Chadwell Humphries’s poetry collection is well-wrought and accessible to any educated reader. As an adult, Humphries lost her vision from a genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa. Her website, ann-chadwellhumphries.com, describes the process of her loss “I went from (seeing through) a hula hoop to a donut and then a straw.” Her poem “My Blind Obsession” delineates how she struggled with advancing disease and at first and tried to ignore it, chase it from her yard,

but it would not leave.
So blindness and I shook hands, became friends.

Becoming friends with blindness seems a nearly impossible process, but although Humphries admits to drawing “blood” in her fight with the disease, she is convincing when she asserts that her life has become better because of her blindness (website).  Her other senses have become stronger, and she claims to have “at least sixteen” of them including “sense of memory, sense of organization, sense of concentration, sense of movement, sense of orientation, [and] sense of humor” (website). Her sense of humor, in particular has been “an asset when forced to change” (41). Her wry wit peeks from many of her poems, especially when she announces that “love is blind” (41). Scents of Listerine and linseed oil wander into her poems, exemplifying her sensory grounding in the physical world. She feels the vines and flowers gilded on the cover of a rare book as if she is actually seeing them. Her powerful sense of visual organization, part memory, part something else, allows her to “imagine how people look” when she talks with them (41). All these talented senses become apparent to her readers and listening audiences, especially when she recites her poetry from memory.

Kaleidoscope‘s issues are free online, so visit their website to check out the rest of this book review.

Able Muse Authors Reading with Drury, Espaillat, & White

Able Muse is hosting another reading with three of its authors on September 17, 2021. Are you enjoying their reading series so far? Don’t forget that these readings are being held via Zoom and are free and open to the public. You do have to register in order to participate.

Featured authors are John Philip Drury whose book Sea Level Rising: Poems was published by Able Muse Press in 2015; Rhina P. Espaillat whose book And After All: Poems was published by Able Muse Press in 2019; and Gail White whose Asperity Street: Poems was published by Able Muse Press in 2015.

Jennifer Reeser will act as host. Reeser’s collection Indigenous was published by Able Muse Press in 2019 and she has another collection forthcoming from the press in 2021/22 titled Strong Feather.

If you’ve missed out on any of these readings, don’t forget you can watch them on Able Muse’s official YouTube Channel.

Driftwood Press 2020 Poetry Collection Results

screenshot of Driftwood Press 2020 poetry collection resultsDriftwood Press has announced their 2020 poetry collection reading period results. They have selected three manuscripts for publication.

One Person Holds so Much Silence by David Greenspan was chosen for its “surprising, jaw-dropping language from poem to poem.” Also selected, is O by Niki Tulk is a fable revealing real-world trauma of sexual assault through the fantastical. Last, but not least, Fit to be Tied by Sarah Moore Wagner examines addiction and experiences of womanhood in a small, rural town.

Honorable mentions include Robin Gow’s Stained Glass Rifle, Laura Bandy’s CINEMA, Heather Bartlett’s Another Word for Hunger, and Carolyn Oliver’s Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble.

Keep an eye out for the three forthcoming collections and if you’re interested in submitting your own poetry manuscripts, they are currently open to submissions.

‘The Body’

Guest Post by Kirpa Bajaj.

The centerpiece of The Body is an aging playwright who accepts a very tempting offer to have his mind transplanted into a younger physique. He obviously then faces the extreme consequences of his decision to chase his vanished youth.

Hanif Kureishi’s insights into the human condition are on point. This novel is very well written and carries a hint of rare warmth and humanity. Kureishi has this certain intensity and integrity of vision which makes this book ten times more impressive. This volume of fiction is a must read!

The Body by Hanif Kureishi. Scribner Book Company, April 2011.

Reviewer bio: I am Kirpa, a bibliophile and student who loves to dive in the sea of books and reviewing them for others. I also write as it’s one of my major interests. I hope I was able to help you out!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

A Tale of Two Giraffes and a Dust Bowl Boy

Guest Post by Cindy Dale.

Occasionally, you come across a book that is so unusual, so original that it stops you in your tracks. Case in point:  West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge. The novel was Inspired by a true event—two giraffes in transit aboard the SS Robin Goodfellow from Africa to America shipwrecked in the 1938 “Long Island Express” hurricane. The tale is narrated by 105-year-old Woodrow Wilson Nickel from his VA hospital room as, in a race against time, he records the events of a short, pivotal period from his early life.

The year is 2025 and many species of wildlife, including giraffes, are near extinction thanks to us humans. At 17 Woody was orphaned, escaped the Dust Bowl, and made it to New York City where he got wind of the plan to transport the two stranded giraffes from New York to the San Diego Zoo. The novel recounts the audacious ocean to ocean odyssey. Woody steals a bicycle and takes off after old man Riley Jones who has been hired by San Diego Zoo doyenne Belle Benchley to transport the “towering creatures of God’s pure Eden.” Also hot on the tail of Riley Jones and the giraffes is “Red,” a pin-up pretty, young redheaded Margaret Bourke-White wannabe.

Part road trip, part coming of age story, part unrequited love story, the novel is studded with meticulously researched historical references.  Woody and Riley’s journey takes them on the southern route through the Jim Crow south and across the Texas panhandle where Woody must face memories from his own tragic past. At the heart of the novel is the concept of home. As Riley says to Woody, “Home’s not the place you’re from, Woody. Home’s the place you want to be.” A wonderful, heart-warming story perfect for these dark times.

West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge. Lake Union Publishing, February 2021.

Reviewer bio: Cindy Dale has published over twenty short stories in literary journals and anthologies. She lives on a barrier beach off the coast of Long Island.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Poets in Space

Guest Post by Susan Kay Anderson.

The Space Poet is written in well-researched prose-like stanzas so it appears scientific, logical. There are some list poems. The premise for this book is so super intriguing, that’s why I am writing something here so more people know about it!

A poet is sent to a space station to do research on what it is like (space) and write poems. This book could have been sparked by more recent projects about space (besides 2001: A Space Odyssey) Laurie Anderson’s Moon project, and Duncan Jones’ movie, Moon, but there are lots of space inspired books of poems, it seems (by looking around this book at the endorsements and epigraphs and such). I like this book because the idea of it is so strange and reading it does put one into the mood of the weirdness of space. The language of science is so weird. It can be. Enter advertising language of hype and sell.

From “Planet Hop from Trappist-1f!”

Planet hop from Trappist-1 f, the terrestrial Earth-sized planet
smack-dab in the habitable zone of our galaxy’s newly
discovered solar system and your new home amongst the stars!

These poems are kind of sad. It is melancholy in space.

From “The Cupola”

[ . . . ] the space poet cannot work with this, out here where nothing
is what you think it ought to be, where there is no rage [ . . . ]

[ . . . ] student loans or credit card debt, nothing is late for work,
nothing misses someone, nothing is late for work,
nothing misses someone, nothing loves or lives or leaves—
and what’s poetic about that?

I don’t want to say it but I will: the Pandemic. Plus, going to space to get rid of debt is kind of cruel, but I can easily see millions doing so.

The Space Poet by Samantha Edmonds. Split Lip Press, February 2020.

Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson lives at the headwaters of Sutherlin Creek in southwestern Oregon’s Umpqua Basin. She is the author of Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast (Finishing Line Press, 2021) Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir. Anderson is a poetry reader for Quarterly West and Lily Poetry Review. Her poems are forthcoming in Barrow Street Journal, Heron Tree, and Wild Roof Journal.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Brilliant Flash Fiction Releases Branching Out

book leaning against trunk of a tree surrounded by leavesOnline literary magazine Brilliant Flash Fiction has released is second print anthology! Branching Out: International Tales of Brilliant Flash Fiction is a collection of stories – all 300 words or less. These unique tales will entertain you while inspiring your own writing.

The anthology includes authors from Australia, Canada, England, India, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, Nigeria, the Philippines, Scotland, and the United States.

Want a copy? Submit a $12 donation via the button on their homepage.

Write Like a Human and Other Pithy Advice from Kurt Vonnegut

Guest Post by Lisa Graham-Peterson.

“Write like a human” has been my advice to university students for years; imagine my delight to see those same words from Kurt Vonnegut to his pupils in Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style. For any writer, novice or not, advice on the craft from someone like Vonnegut is well worth your time. Fans of his will wince a bit at my purposeful use of a semicolon in my opening sentence.

The book’s cover lists Kurt Vonnegut and Suzanne McConnell as authors, though he’d been dead for 12 years by the time this book was published. The attribution is appropriate. McConnell includes so much of his work and words, it’s only fair he gets top billing.

McConnell was a student of Vonnegut’s at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and went on to a lifelong friendship with the storied writer and his family. Not meant to be a biography but so much of his life and personality inspired or surfaced within Vonnegut’s writing, this book wouldn’t be complete without those details. With her close connection to the family, McConnell includes rare photos and reproductions of letters, marked-up drafts and—my favorite—assignments and notes to students. I now need to up my game with my university course materials.

McConnell gives us bite-sized reading, with attention to page layout that would bring a sly smile to Vonnegut. It’s an organized primer—inspiration, mechanics—up to and including how to build community and take care of oneself in this solitary business we call writing.

Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style by Kurt Vonnegut & Suzanne McConnell. Seven Stories Press, 2019.

Reviewer bio: Lisa Graham-Peterson is a freelance writer and adjunct professor at the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota. More about Lisa at lisagrahampeterson.com.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Too Young To Know

Guest Post by Susan Kay Anderson.

Poet Kevin Ridgeway dishes it out in seemingly endless amounts of true grit in his poems of loss and despair in Too Young To Know. His poems are a cross between Richard Brautigan and Denis Johnson and we can read the pathos of “Kool Aid Mustache,” “The 1988 Sears Christmas Catalog,” “My Drug Dealer’s Girlfriend,” and “The Original Unsung Hometown Zero” because less is more, because we get pulled down and are entertained, because we fall in love with Ridgeway, and because we survive along with him no matter what.

These are short poems written in lawn mower narrative chunks like Dean Young’s. I have heard this style called “new narrative” or “street style.” What is new about Ridgeway’s work is that his white trash experiences and escapades are just the setting for heroics of living when everything else comes crashing down in the world of alcohol and drug dependence.

From “Two Dimensional Lovers”:

. . . my sweetheart
that I secretly called Sharlena, her never
ending smile making out with me when I
saw the shell shocked faces of other sons,
frightened refugees smoked out of their
cavernous mall video arcade hideouts

For all the depression and desperation here, Ridgeway lifts us up because he just barely escapes with his biggest weapon. His scraggly Nordic looks? His jolly underwear? His nine hundred lives? All these? What passes for pathos and gutter writing is none other than beauty and connection.

Ridgeway’s poems are on Facebook and he posts short videos of himself reading. You’ll find yourself seeking him out again and again, addicted and craving more. His new chapbook is called In His Own Little World (Stubborn Mule Press) out now.

Too Young To Know by Kevin Ridgeway. Stubborn Mule Press, July 2019.

Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson lives at the headwaters of Sutherlin Creek in southwestern Oregon’s Umpqua Basin. She is the author of Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast (Finishing Line Press, 2021) Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir. Anderson is a poetry reader for Quarterly West and Lily Poetry Review. Her poems are forthcoming in Barrow Street Journal, Heron Tree, and Wild Roof Journal.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Cynical & Whimsical

Book Review by Katy Haas.

I’ve had Mary Biddinger’s Partial Genius on my “to-read” shelf of my bookcase for two years now. While participating in this year’s Sealy Challenge—reading 31 books of poetry in 31 days—I finally was able to sit down and read it (and reread it).

In these prose poems, Biddinger’s voice is both cynical and whimsical. I found humor throughout in lines like “I’d have to move back to Northern Michigan in order to be beautiful,” and “Your favorite part of the Bible was that story about the flood, but it was mostly the thought of luxuriating on a ship between camels and zebras and cranes and their vast, auspicious futures.”

But then suddenly there are lines that sober like these from “Untamed Thickets”:

I did a lot of really dumb things, like jumping out of cars and allowing my feelings to seep into the pad under the carpet. [ . . . ] Certain nights were so hot I just loomed on stairways waiting for someone to push me aside, which isn’t a punishment like making out with a man who hurt you, in a closet filled with electrified metal hangers, and then missing it.

It’s impossible to guess where Biddinger will take us. In “Voir Dire,” the paragraphs jump back and forth between scenes—one a thread linking religion to a diamond ring to the idea of ownership and freedom, and the other thread carrying us through a story of a robbery and being in court. In most other poems, we read one sentence and are immediately whisked off to another thought, and this unpredictability is what I love about this collection. Every poem is fresh, exciting, and beautifully crafted.

Biddinger has another book, Department of Elegy, forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press next year. I promise it won’t have any time to collect dust on my to-read shelf.

Partial Genius by Mary Biddinger. Black Lawrence Press, August 2019.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

No One Is Safe in Sager’s New Page Turner

Guest Post by Lauren Mead.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager is a twisted psychological thriller that will leave readers biting their nails right up until the end. It’s your classic girl-meets-boy story, but with serial killers and revenge. Awesome. When Charlie accepts a ride home from Josh Baxter, she is nervous, but no way could he be anything other than a nice guy. But as they journey farther towards their final destination, Charlie begins to discover that Josh isn’t who he says he is. She starts to think that he is the serial killer who murdered her roommate two months ago. Now she’s trapped in a car, in the middle of nowhere with a murderer and she’s got a suspicion that she’s next. In Riley Sager’s new page turner, no one is who they appear to be and, certainly, no one is safe.

Riley Sager’s books are all gripping, but Survive the Night turns up the heat as the reader tries to guess who the serial killer might be. It’s an insightful look into the idea of safety. Who can we trust? What does a “safe person” look like? This is a particularly resonant discussion given the current #metoo reveals. As a reader, inhabiting the mind of a terrified girl trapped in the car with a maybe serial killer made me think hard about the ways that women learn not to trust their instincts even when they feel like a situation is bad. At every turn, Charlie was terrified, but second guessed herself. In Survive the Night, Sager asks the question: If not yourself, who can you trust?

Survive the Night by Riley Sager. Dutton Books, June 2021.

Reviewer bio: Lauren Mead has been published in The Danforth Review, The MacGuffin, Soliloquies and Forest for the Trees. She also writes for her blog, www.novelshrink.com.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

August 2021 eLitPak :: New from Tupelo Press – Open Secrets

Screenshot of Tupelo Press' Flier 1 for the NewPages August 2021 eLitPak
click image to open full-size flier

A Marketing Guide for Independent Authors

All authors want to get their books into the hands of as many readers as possible. Though it is a publisher’s role to aid and assist authors in marketing and publicity for every book, the role of any publisher necessarily takes a back seat to your all-important efforts. Nobody else can do this essential work as effectively as you can.

View the full NewPages August 2021 eLitPak newsletter.

August 2021 eLitPak :: Getting to the Truth Now Available

Screenshot of Hippocampus' flier for the NewPages August 2021 eLitPak
click image to view full-size flier

The Craft and Practice of Creative Nonfiction

This collection of craft essays offers thoughtful insights from some of the highest-rated speakers from HippoCamp: A Conference for Creative Nonfiction Writers, who also happen to be some of the brightest minds in CNF we know. Get your copy today.

View the full NewPages August 2021 eLitPak newsletter.

August 2021 eLitPak :: New Titles from Livingston Press

Screenshot of Livingston Press May 2021 NewPages eLitPak Flier
click image to open full-size flier

New summer titles from Livingston Press by James Braziel (a Tartt First Fiction Award winner due out this month!), Mark Budman, Daren Dean, William Gay, and Terence Gallagher. We will announce the Tartt winner soon and then will resume open reading for fiction titles. Plus, stay tuned for new fall and winter releases by Christy Alexander Hallberg, Kurt Leviant, James Findlay Sleigh, and M. Kaat Toy.

View the full NewPages August 2021 eLitPak newsletter.

A Fresh Look on Historical Events

Guest Post by Stephanie Renee dos Santos.

Eleonora and Joseph by Julieta Ameida Rodrigues elucidates the fascinating connections between eighteenth century Portugal, Italy, and the United States, exploring revolutionary voices, supporters, and contributors to the European Enlightenment movement. The characters, former United States President Thomas Jefferson, Portuguese priest and scientist Joseph Correia da Serra, and Portugal descendant aristocratic poet and royal librarian Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel, bring to life this tumultuous and radical time of conflict and change. Each of these plays a different and distinct role in this Revolutionary era on both sides of the Atlantic.

Through these three characters, Rodrigues fleshes out a unique story, revealing the international complexities and connections in Europe and in the United States. This book allows the reader into the inner workings of this radical time where many opposing ideals were fought and died for. This is an original historical novel highlighting Eleonora, whose life story connects all three protagonists in surprising ways. Courageous Eleonora, who risked her life for the ideals of equality and freedom for all. In addition, the author recreates the historically celebrated and controversial male characters, President Thomas Jefferson and botanist Joseph Correia da Serra, whom she skillfully shows their inner motives and drives that propel the novel forward in complicated and tragic ways.

It is refreshing as a lover of historical fiction to read an original story like Eleonora and Joseph that brings to life important historical characters and events from a fresh new angle and lens.

Eleonora and Joseph by Julieta Almeida Rodrigues. New Academia Publishing, July 2020.

Reviewer bio: Stephanie Renee dos Santos is author of Cut From The Earth, a Semi-Finalist for the Chanticleer International Book Reviews Chaucer Book Awards. To learn more: www.stephaniereneedossantos.com.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

New Fall 2021 Titles from Main Street Rag Publishing Company

Check out the titles slated for release this fall from Main Street Rag. These will be release in September, October, and November. You can order an advanced copy at a discounted price, too!

  • A Flower More Enduring poems by Hellen Losse
  • A Gathering of Friends poems by Ron Lands
  • Amorotica poems by Sarah Brown Weitzman
  • Any Dumb Animal poems by AE Hines
  • Blind Green poems by Richard Carr
  • Easter Creek poems by Gary Lark
  • Floating Bridge poems by Eleanor Brawley
  • Just Off Half-Moon Road poems by Sheila Turnage
  • MAGA Sonnets poems by Donald Trump found and compiled by David Rigsbee
  • Making Payments on a Pink Cadillac stories by Robert Parham
  • Polaroids at a Yard Dale poems by Ralph J. Long, Jr.
  • Praises poems by Shelby Stephenson
  • Revised Light poems by Sharon Ackerman
  • Sainted poems by Lisa Zimmerman
  • Singing at High Altitude poems by Jennifer Markell
  • Stories of the New West short stories by Evan Morgan Williams
  • When Light Waits for Us poems by Hilda Downer
  • When There Were Horses poems by Pat Riviere-Seel
  • Wild Things poems by Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose
  • Winter Bride poems by Monica McAlpine

Which titles are you adding to your fall and winter reading lists?

Clarence Major’s Lurking Place Found

Guest Post by Susan Kay Anderson.

The newly published novel by Clarence Major is a straightforward narrative from the point of view of its protagonist, James Eric Lowell, a studious young poet of the 1960s. As I read this plain spoken and gentle portrait of the Love Era and how Beats and Bohemians morphed into the hippy movement with its profound activism for civil rights, I noticed how I felt right at home with the sensibilities and customs of that world. Why? Because The Lurking Place portrays exactly the lifestyle of many iconic writers and artists. While cultural eras cannot be broken up into neat decades, at the same time I find that The Lurking Place shows us the early beginnings of academic programs in a way that is organic and appealing.

Now here we were, the bohemians, the artists, and the poets—the new tenants—taking up residence in these dilapidated apartments.

Many “whys” get attention in The Lurking Place:

Why? Because we were not rich, and they were affordable. Being here together also gave us a community, one held together by the idea of creativity and intellectual pursuit.

In mid-June, I was invited up to Harlem to read my poems to a group that turned out to be composed mostly of young militant black 17 men and women who were, like me, aspiring poets.

What is stark in this is how poets and artists run around with their good intentions and before the world of digital instantaneousness, running around was physical and included a lot of exploration of the world in a physical way and of course interaction with other people. This, the world of writing via pen, paper, envelopes, typewriters, is represented by objects of solid weight instead of being “typed by thumbs, ugh” and we can read about that world here.

The Lurking Place by Clarence Major. Manic D Press, 2021.

Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson is the author of Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast, Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir, and Mezzanine (poems) both by Finishing Line Press.  She has poems forthcoming in Barrow Street Journal, Heron Tree, and Wild Roof Journal.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Return to 221B Baker Street

Guest Post by Joyce Bou Charaa.

Robert J. Harris reintroduces the famous detective fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, in a new murder mystery story that takes place in 20th century London. In this novel, Sherlock Holmes is facing a murder case that takes him back to the shadows of the Victorian period of England.

A Study In Crimson narrates the murder of two young women found by the Scotland Yard police in the streets of London. Near their dead bodies, the killer leaves his name: “Crimson Jack.” Both Holmes and his close friend, Dr. Watson, are in search of the killer’s identity. The two believe he is impersonating the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper, who marked the year 1888 with his terrible deeds by attacking young women in the most savage way and strangling them to death. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, along with Inspector Lestrade and other inspectors from Scotland Yard, go through a wide range of investigations filled with suspense, hidden secrets, and new discoveries. Continue reading “Return to 221B Baker Street”

Call :: Atmosphere Press Reading Book Manuscripts in All Genres

atmosphere press logoDeadline: Rolling
Atmosphere Press currently seeks book manuscripts from diverse voices. There’s no submission fee, and if your manuscript is selected, we’ll be the publisher you’ve always wanted: attentive, organized, on schedule, and professional. We use a model in which the author funds the publication of the book, but retains 100% rights, royalties, and artistic autonomy. This year Atmosphere authors have received featured reviews with Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist, and have even appeared on a giant billboard in Times Square. Submit your book manuscript at atmospherepress.com.

A Smart, Comforting How-To

Guest Post by Betsy Boyd.

I teach writing in an MFA program and have recently begun using Kathy Flann’s book WRITE ON: Secrets to Crafting Better Stories in the classroom. I appreciate the readable humor, relatability, and stealthy brilliance of her advice. Flann’s creative observations and essential recommendations make writing a strong, authentic narrative more achievable—sooner.

One grad student told me that her instruction helps him to ask the big story questions earlier than he might otherwise. I use the book in my own writing life as well. It’s a smart, comforting how-to for anyone drafting a new work, which all writers, at every career stage, must do.

WRITE ON: Secrets to Crafting Better Stories by Kathy Flann. Stay Thirsty Publishing, August 2020.

Reveiwer bio: Betsy Boyd directs the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA program at the University of Baltimore. Her fiction has been published in Kenyon Review, StoryQuarterly, Shenandoah, Eclectica, Del Sol Review, the Pushcart Prize Anthology, and elsewhere.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Reviewer’s Note: I know Kathy Flann as a Baltimore-based colleague and friend. We are in a longstanding writing group together. Because I admire her work and her critique methods so much, I feel comfortable both using them in my teaching realm and writing a review—totally unbiased. I am especially picky about the craft books I’ll bring into a workshop.

Contest :: Minds on Fire Open Book Prize—$1,500

astronaut in front of a full moonDeadline: October 31, 2021
Conduit Books & Ephemera is pleased to announce our fourth annual Open Book Prize is accepting submissions. Awarded annually and open to any poet writing in English, regardless of previous publication record, the prize seeks to represent the best contemporary writing in high quality editions of enduring value. Prospective entrants are encouraged to familiarize themselves with Conduit, which champions originality, intelligence, irreverence, and humanity. All manuscripts welcome, be they first books or last books. Previously unpublished manuscripts of 48-90 pages should be submitted through our Submittable page. The winning poet will receive $1,500 and 30 author copies. $25.00 Entry Fee

The Real Housewives of Namibia

Guest Post by Cindy Dale.

First, a confession. I had to look Namibia up on the map. That’s where Katie Crouch’s fourth novel, Embassy Wife, is set. This funny, insightful, thought-provoking romp will entertain you, inform you, and get you thinking about things you might not normally think about.

The novel follows three women—newly arrived former Silicon Valley COO Amanda Evans; Persephone, the tipsy former southern belle queen bee of the Expat crowd; and Mila, the statuesque, ebony skinned wife of the Minister of Transportation. All are what’s called “trailing spouses.” Add to the mix their respective husbands, children, and household staffs, and you’ve got quite a cast of characters. Not surprisingly, their lives intersect in surprising ways both in the present and the past.

There’s a lot of commentary on everything from the legacy of Colonialism to marriage to genocide and gem smuggling embedded in the story. One key driver of the plot: animal poaching, one rhino and one stake-out in particular. The story is told from the third person omniscient point of view, allowing the author to deftly dance between the characters.

Part satire. Part Expat story. Always surprising. You will laugh out loud at some of the references (“the Great Orange Oompa Loompa”) and find yourself quoting many of the lines, including the acronym FIGJAM (read the book to find out).

Embassy Wife by Katie Crouch. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, July 2021.

Reviewer bio: Cindy Dale has published over twenty short stories in literary journals and anthologies. She lives on a barrier beach off the coast of Long Island.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

An Original & Gripping Tale

Guest Post by Megan Riann.

The Scorpio Races pulls the reader into an immersive, sharp-edged world where our main characters have everything at stake. Puck and Sean, both teens on a fictional island off the American west coast, are competing on unlikely steeds in a deadly race across an unforgiving beach.

The premise and the ensuing story are original and gripping. Keltic-inspired water horses, red sea cliffs, and a deadly race to change your life? A perfect mix of familiar and fresh.

Additionally, the language in this book is phenomenal. Maggie Stiefvater’s prose is incredible and indulgent. Similarly, all the dialogue was purposeful, in-character, and clever. Not a single line was wasted.

This author absolutely nails character and development. All the motivations are clear and intense. The dual first-person perspectives allow the reader to get lost in the mind of the characters. As we root for Puck and Sean, the supporting casts’ contrasting goals add to the tension and stakes.

I would recommend this book to those who appreciate strong prose and powerful stories. With light magical realism, this story includes characters to root for, antagonists to hate, and stakes that will have you holding your breath.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Scholastic Inc., 2013.

Reviewer bio: Megan Riann is a Creative Writing major from West Michigan. When not writing, she’s watching superhero movies with her cat and hanging out on #writestagram.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

‘The Enemy’

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

Charlie Higson’s The Enemy is the first of an eight-book series, and it really starts off with a bang! It follows a group of children who have worked together to try to survive after a disease has either completely wiped out all adults, or turned them into bloodthirsty creatures content on eating the kids. There is a very large cast of characters, but they’re surprisingly easy to keep track of despite this. They have very distinct personalities and are quite loveable for the most part.

That being said, the end result for a lot of them is heartbreaking to read, and the struggles and hardships they all must face forces the reader to sympathize with even the most unlikeable of them. There are a lot of strange, scary, and bewildering things sprung upon these children that left me gasping. This story was very well told and I cannot wait to see what book two has in store!

The Enemy by Charlie Higson. Disney-Hyperion, May 2014.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

The Best “New” Writer You Haven’t Heard Of

Guest Post by Cindy Dale.

I love discovering a new writer, especially one who, IMHO, has been overlooked. Introducing Derek B. Miller.

Miller’s first novel, Norwegian by Night, introduced Sheldon Horowitz, an 82-year-old former Marine who served in the Korean War. Still crippled by the death of his only son in Vietnam, Sheldon sets off to track down a young boy who has been kidnapped by the Serbians. This is an excellent, fast-paced mystery set in—you guessed it—Norway. (Miller is American married to a Norwegian).

This was followed by The Girl in Green. Spanning two decades, this is an ambitious, thought-provoking commentary on the Gulf War. At the center of the story: a war-weary British journalist named Thomas Benton and an aimless American private named Arwood Hobbes. A quick Google search reveals that Miller’s CV makes him eminently qualified to write about the complexities of war. You will at times think Catch-22 and will be haunted by how little the world has changed.

Miller next returned to the realm of crime with American by Day, an excellent mystery packed with a lot of social commentary. Main character Sigrid Odegard (introduced in Norwegian by Night) leaves Norway and heads to up-upstate New York to track down her missing, long absent brother Marcus. Miller nicely juxtaposes Norwegian society and policing tactics with our own.

Miller’s newest, How to Find Your Way in the Dark (not yet read by this reviewer), will be released July 27 and is a prequel to Norwegian by Night. Perhaps this is the book that will bring attention to this under-the-radar author who deserves to be more widely read. While reading Miller, I was reminded of Ward Just, another writer whose work crisscrossed the globe, who wrestled with the consequences of war, and who never quite got the acclaim he deserved.

Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller. Scribe, 2012.

The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller. Mariner Books, January 2017

How to Find Your Way in the Dark by Derek B. Miller. Mariner Books, July 2021.

Reviewer bio: Cindy Dale has published over twenty short stories in literary journals and anthologies. She lives on a barrier beach off the coast of Long Island.

‘The Mindset’

Guest Post by Manjusha Sreedharan. 

The Mindset by Ace Bowers is a memoir of one who was brought up in a dysfunctional family but reached where he is today through sheer hard work. The book depicts the life of the author from janitor to a millionaire in Silicon Valley.

Bowers spent his early years in the constant fear of his friends finding out the circumstances at his home. His father, a machinist who learned his skills from the Navy, and his mother, a homemaker, were high school sweethearts, but as time progressed, fights became a routine. This was mostly because of the continuous use of alcohol. The economical situation at his house wasn’t the best as the family struggled to make ends meet mainly because most of the money went into buying alcohol and cigarettes. Frequent visits to prison by his brother and his sister leaving for college left him all alone with his parents. The book revolves around his struggles as a teenager dominated by anxiety and loneliness and how he overcomes them as he faces unexpected challenges. Continue reading “‘The Mindset’”

A Solid Conclusion to a Trilogy

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

Fox Forever is the conclusion to the Jenna Fox Chronicles. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this given that I really enjoyed the first book, and didn’t care much for the second, but this was a solid conclusion to the trilogy.

The story follows Locke as he tries to fulfill a favor he owes in Boston, which involves Miesha’s long lost husband, and a girl Locke accidentally falls for who is tied to the favor in a way that she doesn’t even know. As in the other two books, the characters are the best part of this story by far, but the plot is really good as well. There are reveals and plot twists around every corner, and they are quite unpredictable for the most part. Pearson constantly adds pieces to the puzzle and it grows more complicated as the situation reveals itself.

If you enjoyed the first book, and even if you didn’t enjoy the second book, I definitely think this is a series worth continuing!

Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson. Square Fish, February 2014.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

A Gentle & Ambitious Journey

Guest Post by Stephanie Katz.

New-Hampshire-based poet Amanda Lou Doster’s first chapbook Everything Begins Somewhere is a gentle yet ambitious journey across the poet’s life. The first poem, “Actually,” sets in motion the idea of loss mixed with returning home, a theme which threads throughout the chapbook. Doster writes: 

here, have this poem which all my life I thought
would be big enough for the languages and the countries
and the drugs, but which is really just a basket
woven from hay. Fragile stuff from the farm
I never thought I’d live on, but where it turns out I do.

The poems that reference children or motherhood paint stark pictures of the experience. In “A mother dreams of more babies” Doster writes: 

In my friend’s belly grow tiny teeth,
perfect little knives. She says
they’re eating her alive.

One of the most vivid and raw poems in the collection is “You are expected to be more decorous than linoleum.” Doster writes: 

It is unseemly to wash your hair in snowmelt. Impolite to discuss
your lover with your husband, but since you asked
in sixty-four years we will dissolve. All of us.

The themes of loss and quiet self-destruction play heavily throughout the poems, but the last poem “Next time I’ll ask someone else” hints at self-acceptance with the final line “I can collect everything / inside that green trunk—some vintage clothes, / paisley, and other lapses in judgement.” 

This chapbook was published by Slate Roof Press, a unique member-run letterpress based in Massachusetts. New poets are selected through their annual contests and spend the next three years a member of the press learning and helping to produce their own title.  

Everything Begins Somewhere by Amanda Lou Doster. Slate Roof Press, 2020.

Reviewer bio: Stephanie Katz is a librarian with the Manatee Libraries and editor in chief of award-winning litmag 805 Lit + Art. She was selected as a Library Journal 2020 Mover & Shaker and is the author of Libraries Publish: How to Start a Magazine, Small Press, Blog, and More. She blogs about creative library publishing at LiteraryLibraries.org. 

The End of a Breathtaking Duology

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

This sequel to Strange the Dreamer was absolutely phenomenal. It picks up right where the first book leaves off as Minya tries to force Lazlo to do her bidding, with the threat of releasing Sarai’s soul and letting her evanesce if he does not comply.

There are so many twists and turns throughout all 500 pages of this masterpiece. There are high stakes. There is whimsy. There is Laini Taylor’s gorgeous writing. There are the extremely lovable characters. And most of all, there is an amazing conclusion to this duology.

Throughout the entire story it seems as if there is no way to solve all of the major problems, even as more are being introduced, but somehow it all comes together for a spectacular ending that leaves the reader with so much emotion. I would highly recommend this duology to everyone, because it is absolutely breathtaking.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. Little, Brown and Company, October 2018.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Suspense, Twists, and Heartache

Guest Post by Allison Kaminski.

The Wife’s House by Arianne Richmonde is a psychological thriller full of suspense, twists, and heartache. A widow lives alone on the edge of the Big Sur cliff tops, home to her modern glass refuge Cliffside. Little does she know, her lavish paradise is going to become her worst nightmare.

Triplets. A psycho ex-wife. Creepy notes. A dead husband. What could possibly go wrong?

Richmonde does a fantastic job of conveying suspense while building a main character who learns how to find confidence and strength in order to overcome the obstacles in her life.

Personally, I haven’t read a thriller quite like this. Its uniqueness in plot and suspicious characters had me hooked from the very beginning. I loved not knowing what characters I could or couldn’t trust. And let’s not forget the ending. Wow!

Overall, if you’re looking for an unputdownable thriller that will send you through a hurricane of emotions, The Wife’s House is the perfect read for you!

The Wife’s House by Arianne Richmonde. Bookouture, August 2020.

Reviewer bio: Allison Kaminski is a YA author who writes gripping mysteries and romance stories. She spends her days working to achieve a Bachelor in English with an emphasis in creative writing. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading and watching old movies. Connect with me on social media: https://www.instagram.com/author_allisonk.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

‘The Rotten Beast’

Guest Post by Natalie Hess.

This is the short story in the Jenna Fox Chronicles that comes after The Adoration of Jenna Fox. I absolutely loved this! The story follows Allys, Jenna’s friend, who is trying to cope with the fact that she is made mostly of bio gel which is a sort of replicating technology that can be used to replace vital organs, and therefore save lives. The problem, though, is that Allys has an extremely large amount of this inside her, making her illegal.

I can’t say that very much happened in this story, considering it was only 12 pages long, but it was still extremely enjoyable. The way that Mary E. Pearson writes is really beautiful and makes something that could be very boring and insignificant into something gorgeous and impactful, and it very much has to do with the events in the rest of the series. I would highly recommend this series, and this short story, especially to people who really enjoy sci-fi.

The Rotten Beast” by Mary E. Pearson. Tor Books, November 2011.

Reviewer bio: I’m Natalie Hess and I’m simply a high school student who LOVES reading everything from scifi to romance to nonfiction and everything in between. I also love sharing my thoughts and I hope you enjoy!

A Labyrinth of a Novel

Book Review by Katy Haas.

Adam McOmber’s Jesus and John takes place in the days following Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus returns from the dead as a shell of himself, unable to speak and seemingly unable to stop walking in a specific direction as if being pulled by a magnet. The man who was his lover, John, is assigned the duty of protecting Jesus as he walks. This brings them to Rome, to a mysterious house called the “Gray Palace.” Once inside the palace, John’s journey becomes much more than he bargained for.

The deeper John travels into the labyrinth of a house, the looser the definition of reality becomes. John has no idea what lies around the next corner, and readers are kept just as unaware, constantly discovering new details. Each question answered unearths another question. I stayed up reading for hours, completely unable to set down this thriller/fantasy/horror/something-else-entirely novel.

McOmber writes John’s inner thoughts and feelings so vividly, a reader can’t help experiencing these feelings along with him: his love, his uncertainties, his growing fear and desperation. It’s been a long time since a novel has kept me so entranced and I welcomed getting lost in this fantastical world and queer storyline.

Jesus and John by Adam McOmber. Lethe Press, June 2020.

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.