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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 56 pgs.
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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan is a Newbery Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, and the author notes that he was inspired to write about the 11 slaves listed as property for the Fairchilds estate in 1828. The slave-related document only listed the slaves as “woman” and “boy”, etc., and no ages were given.  Bryan ascribed ages and names to these slaves and gave them jobs on the estate, and the stories he tells in a free-verse poetry format are telling.  My daughter and I read this together in February for Black History Month, but it is a book that has lessons that should be taught to kids everyday.

Bryan’s illustrations aim to breathe life into the dreams of these slaves, those who are bound to an estate with little hope of freedom, except in their minds.  They have skills praised by their owners, and any money they earn from the neighboring plantations enriches their owners.  It’s hard to see how this life could not make the slaves feel hopeless, but Bryan’s free verse poems recall the inner freedom their skills and accomplishments can bring — they have dreams of something more, if not for themselves, for others who they teach and mentor along the way.  From musicians to architects and doctors, these slaves had dreams that out shined their current situations.

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan demonstrates the harsh realities of slavery, while still providing children with a glimmer of hope and joy.  It speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit, as well as the darker drive to control others and deem them less worthy for arbitrary reasons.  The illustrations are bright and dreamlike, and kids will be drawn in.  My only complaint is that the free-verse is very narrative, and less rhythmic than expected.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Ashley Bryan grew up to the sound of his mother singing from morning to night, and he has shared the joy of song with children ever since. A beloved illustrator, he has been the recipient of the Coretta Scott King—Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award; he has also been a May Hill Arbuthnot lecturer, a Coretta Scott King Award winner, and the recipient of countless other awards and recognitions. His books include Sail Away; Beautiful Blackbird; Beat the Story-Drum, Pum Pum; Let It Shine; Ashley Bryan’s Book of Puppets; and What a Wonderful World. He lives in Islesford, one of the Cranberry Isles off the coast of Maine.

Breaking and Holding by Judy Fogarty & Giveaway

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 358 pgs.
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Breaking and Holding by Judy Fogarty is set during what some call the golden age of tennis during the late 1970s when John McEnroe was an up-and-coming star and Jimmy Connors was at the top of his game. Patricia Curren is a beautiful woman who looks as though she’s stepped off of a magazine cover and in a way, she did after her husband discovered her and used her in a rebranding campaign when she was younger. A man bent on building his business and maintaining the perfect facade through intimidation, Jack Curren will stop at nothing to get what he wants while expecting loyalty and acquiescence from those closest to him. It’s clear that his relationship with his wife is far from blissful, and something is about to break.

“This isn’t my story. It’s Patricia and Terry’s. But in the summer of 1978, their lives were wound around mine like strands of twine around a spool. Twine. Rope. Barbed wire by August.” (pg. 1)

The Curren’s take a trip to Kiawah, S.C., to their beach house, and when her husband returns to New York for work, she stays behind. She’s looking to change to become stronger, to break out of her melancholy and aloofness, and to be more like Jack’s assistant Lynn.  Here Patricia transforms into Tricia with the help of Terry, a summer camp teacher who wants to be a professional tennis player on the circuit.  Both are broken and both find that they can repair themselves through the uncomplicated love they have for one another, but the secrets they hold threaten to break apart everything.

Fogarty has created a set of deeply flawed, broken characters who must make peace with their own pasts in order to move forward.  The tennis matches mirror the volleying between Tricia and Jack, Tricia and Lynn, Jack and Lynn, and the volleys between Tricia and Terry, Terry and Baze (his friend), and Terry and Nona (a woman interested in sponsoring his pro career). Told from Lynn’s point of view, readers are pulled into the mystery of these relationships, and the tangled webs they’ve all created until they nearly strangle one another.  Each has to decide when the tipping point is and when to take a chance and go to the net for match point.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Judy Fogarty lives, writes, reads, and runs on the historic Isle of Hope, in her native Savannah, Georgia. She holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Illinois and has served as Director of Marketing for private golf and tennis communities in the Savannah/Hilton Head area, including The Landings on Skidaway Island, Berkeley Hall, and Callawassie Island. She is a devoted (even rowdy) tennis fan as anyone who has ever had the pleasure (or displeasure) of watching a match with her will attest. Breaking and Holding is her debut novel. She is happily at work on her second, and as always, enjoys the invaluable support of her husband, Mike, and children, Colin and Sara Jane. Visit her Website, Facebook, or Twitter.

To Enter for 1 copy (US/Canada addresses only; age 18+): Leave a comment about who your favorite tennis player is and an email. Enter by March 22, 2017, at 11:59 PM EST.

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A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner

Source: Berkley
Paperback, 384 pgs.
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A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner pivots on the life of the Queen Mary, a luxury liner that crossed the ocean to entertain the wealthy and was later converted to carry troops across the Atlantic and war brides back to America after WWII.  Katrine Sawyer, Phoebe Rogers, and Simone Robinson are war brides hoping to return to the arms of their American husbands, and they share a stateroom together and exchange camaraderie until one woman’s secrets come to the surface threatening to upend all of her plans for a new future in America.  In the present, Brette Caslake is a reluctant medium who visits the old ship to help an old friend from her past, as she deals with her own decisions about whether she wants to start a family.

Meissner’s historical fiction elements are vibrant and and emotional.  Simone struggles to flee her home in Paris after the Gestapo raids her father’s shoe repair shop, while Phoebe is just eager to return to the arms of her husband and introduce him to his son.  However, Katrine has fled Germany and a secret past that she will have a hard time escaping.  The stories set during WWII are the strongest, and while Phoebe is a war bride on the ship and seems to take a central role as Katrine’s friend, her backstory is a little lost to the reader.  Meanwhile, the present day story is developed slowly throughout the novel until the end where it seemed a bit rushed.

There are a few magical elements that have to be taken at face value, but overall the novel is enjoyable.  It also raises questions about how one can come to forgive someone who comes from a land where you bore so many losses and traumas?  A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner is about the future happiness just out of reach and what it takes to get there, especially when everything is stacked against you.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses.  Her first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories she wrote when she was eight.

She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoy teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with my family, music, reading great books, and traveling.

A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton is a colorfully illustrated story told from two perspectives — an exuberant young girl and a beast from the woods.  The young girl comes upon the beast in the woods and she decides to take him home and make him a pet.  Once home, the beast is dressed up, not allowed to leave, and shown off to all her friends, among other things.  Looking at the illustrations, kids should be able to tell that the beast is not very happy with the situation.  When the story is told from the perspective of the beast, we learn that the girl coming upon him and kidnapping him was a traumatic experience.  He doesn’t like being man-handled, etc., but later, both characters learn to set reasonable boundaries and a new friendship is born.

Parents can use this book to demonstrate empathy to their children, showing them that each story has two sides and that finding common ground is not as difficult as it may seem.  A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton is a good story with lots of action and words that kids in Kindergarten could read on their own.

RATING: Quatrain

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Source: TLC Book Tours
Hardcover, 384 pgs.
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The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan is about the strength you can find amid hopelessness and tragedy, as women who are left behind in the English village of Chilbury find that the one thing they look forward to — the choir — is being shut down as the last eligible men are sent to the front during WWII. Told through a series of journal entries and letters, Ryan crafts a winding story of intrigue and homefront concerns during WWII. Mrs. Tilling is a nurse and widow who is very meek beneath the overbearing Mrs. Brampton-Boyd, but there is a stronger person beneath who acts as the core of the village in their time of need. Meanwhile, Kitty (age 13) and Venetia (age 18) are sisters of the Brigadier Winthrop, an overbearing and violent man, at Chilbury Manor, and like any set of sisters rarely get along and even fall for the same man — or at least seem to. Other characters are equally unique, if secondary, and they propel the narrative through the brambles.

“First funeral of the war, and our little village choir simply couldn’t sing in tune. ‘Holy, holy, holy’ limped out as if we were a crump of warbling sparrows.” (pg. 3 ARC)

The village ladies are sad that the choir has been shutdown because of a tradition of having both men and women in the choir. It is not until a new lady enters the village and suggests that the choir be composed of just the remaining ladies. Prim is a bit of a free spirit, who has equally suffered loss, and yet she remains focused on living life to the fullest. Her gentle guidance inspires all the women in the village to sing and too seek happiness where and when they can find it. Ryan carefully crafts a set of small village characters, and each has their weaknesses and strengths, with most not all bad even when they engage in the black market or other nefarious schemes. War is a time of opportunity within chaos.

“The hymn was sung at my father’s funeral, as it was for so many of those men who died in the Great War. And then we sang it again at my mother’s funeral, and then at Harold’s. As I was singing it out alone in the church, it took on a new horror. I realized that I have been trapped by those deaths, that I had let them take over.” (pg. 105 ARC)

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan demonstrates the strength we fail to see in ourselves until we can no longer bare any further loss or chaos. It takes a jolt to often wake us up from our complacency, and while WWII was an unexpected jolt for this village, they rally together well and find that there is more that they have to give and set about doing what’s right, fair, and just for their community at large.

RATING: Quatrain

Jennifer Ryan Photo © Nina Subin

About the Author:

Jennifer Ryan lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and their two children. Originally from Kent and then London, she was previously a nonfiction book editor. Connect with her at her website and on Facebook.

Check out this video of the author talking about writing with any distractions:

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Abridged Audio)

Source: Free from BBC
Audio, 10 episodes
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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, abridged by Sara Davies and read by Clarke Peters, re-imagines the Underground Railroad as a literal railroad with trains, conductors, and stationmasters. Clarke Peters does a good job of narrating this abridged version of Whitehead’s book, which in the BBC version focuses on Cora, an escaped slave from Georgia who is later wanted for murder.

At first, Cora is reluctant to run north, and much of it might be because of her mother, who left and never returned.  She may be hoping that her mother would come back for her, but soon she had little choice but to run.  The railroad at first seems like the solution, as does the first stop in the South Carolina, but soon the reality of that state’s laws and experiments sets in.  Each state has its own culture and its own way of doing things, say the railroad workers, and that is true but not in the hopeful way that readers would want.

Whitehead has created a new way to view the Underground Railroad and slavery, as well as discrimination and racism.  As a child, I remember hearing about the railroad in our town and I wondered how the slaves got onto the trains without being caught — that was until I learned it was not a literal railroad.  The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, abridged by Sara Davies and read by Clarke Peters, is a unique look at a part of this nation’s history that continues to throw its shadow over our freedoms and progress.  (I’ll likely be reading my hardcover later in the year as well.)

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Colson Whitehead is the author of the novels Zone One; Sag Harbor; The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN Oakland Award. He also has written a book of essays about his home town, The Colossus of New York, and a non-fiction account of the 2011 World Series of Poker called The Noble Hustle. A recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship, I live in New York City.

The Underground Railroad, his latest book, is an Oprah’s Book Club pick and National Book Award winner. Visit his website.

A Vintage Valentine by Cat Gardiner

Source: Vanity & Pride Press
E-story, 26 pgs.
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A Vintage Valentine by Cat Gardiner is a reimagined story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in which a portal sucks Lizzy into the 1940s when WWII is underway. Modern-day Lizzy, who is a dance instructor, bemoans the social media life that many of us lead and longs for a romance with a gentleman, but she has lost hope. Until her sister Jane convinces her to visit an antique shop in the older part of town, Lizzy has given up on love. Once in the antique shop she is drawn to a special broach.

Gardiner’s story is unique and marries a her two favorite things — Austen and 1940s America. Her take on Lizzy and Darcy in the past is charming and will win over readers quickly because Lizzy has a chance to remedy a situation that could separate these 1940s versions apart forever. That first impression Darcy makes by calling her not tolerable enough to tempt him in the original is similar here, but modern-day Lizzy is more forgiving — setting these two lovers on a path of romance and lasting affection before WWII takes him overseas.

Returning to the modern world, Lizzy has a semi-renewed sense of love and hope, and this propels her to think more openly about opportunities that could come her way in 2017. A Vintage Valentine by Cat Gardiner is too short, but it still has that satisfying happy ending all Austen readers enjoy. Gardiner’s grasp of the 1940s never disappoints, transporting her characters and readers into a believable world, even if they have to suspend disbelief about time portals and wormholes.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Cat Gardiner loves romance and happy endings, history, comedy and Jane Austen. A member of the esteemed National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America and her local chapter Tampa Area Romance Authors (TARA,) she enjoys writing across the modern spectrum of “Pride and Prejudice” inspired novels.

Voted Austenesque Reviews’ Favorite Modern Adaptation for 2014, the comedic, Chick-Lit “Lucky 13” was released in October 2014. The romantic adventure “Denial of Conscience,” named Favorite “Pride and Prejudice” Modern for 2015 by Margie Must Reads and More Agreeably Engaged has set the sub-genre on fire since June of this year. In December 2015, another romantic comedy titled “Villa Fortuna” was voted Just Jane 1813’s Favorite Modern JAFF for 2015.

Her greatest love, however, is writing 20th Century Historical Fiction, WWII Romance. Her debut novel in that genre, “A Moment Forever” was released on May 30, 2016.

Married 23 years to her best friend, they are the proud parents of the smartest honor student in the world – their orange tabby, Ollie. Although they live in Florida, they will always be proud native New Yorkers.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 153 pgs.
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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi, which was our February book club selection, takes its name from an old Persian city, also called Pārsa, that was destroyed by Alexander the Great around 330 BC and is located in present day Iran. Because of the nation’s geographic location and, later, its oil riches, Iran became a prime target for invaders of all types, including Iraq and the West.

In these pages, Satrapi recounts her childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution in which the Shah who supported the United States was overthrown by student, fundamentalist, and Islamic groups and replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini and later created the Islamic Republic.  As a child, Satrapi is quick to passionate responses and, yet, is confused about what it means to be a revolutionary.  She tries to outdo her classmates with her own stories of family heroism, but she soon realizes that it is not the kind of competition you want to win, even on just the school yard.  There are dire consequences to opposing a fundamentalist regime.

This memoir, however, focuses less on the politics and more on the human aspects of this revolution.  The confusion of coups and the realization that war is devastating can touch each person in unexpected ways.  Whether it is an elevation in status, fear of being singled out by others who are afraid, or even the death of loved ones, neighbors, and friends.  Satrapi was a young girl who loved school, found reading to be a solace, and strove to fit in.  These are individuals, their country’s policies and actions may not reflect each person’s desires.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi should serve as a reminder of what revolution can lead to, how it affects everyone differently, and how the consequences cannot be ignored.  It must have been unimaginably hard to raise a young girl at this time, especially one as outspoken as Satrapi was.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969 in Rasht, Iran. She grew up in Tehran, where she studied at the French school, before leaving for Vienna and Strasbourg to study decorative arts. She currently lives in Paris, where she is at work on the sequel to Persepolis. She is also the author of several children’s books.

What the Book Club Said:

The book club all seemed to have enjoyed this graphic memoir. And the discussion was rather animated about the politics of the time and the religious fanaticism that took over Iran’s government. There were also interesting discussions about how her parents allowed her certain liberties even when they knew that neighbors informed on others and some were even in charge of ensuring women dressed and acted according to the new laws of the land. This was probably the most animated discussion in a long while, and some of us cannot wait to read the rest of the series.

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 368 pgs.
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The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff, out in stores today, is a deeply moving tale of a home found in the fanfare and hard work of a traveling circus, a dying profession under the Reich.  The Nazi regime has clamped down on everything, taken children from mothers, and shipped infants off in rail cars to die with little more than knitted booties on their feet.  The circus is a refuge for those the Reich seeks to harm, but it also becomes a family based on unbreakable trust, forgiveness, and love.

“I scan the train, trying to pinpoint the buzzing sound.  It comes from the last boxcar, adjacent to the caboose–not from the engine.  No, the noise comes from something inside the train.  Something alive.”  (pg. 17 ARC)

In this dual narrative, readers are drawn into the innocence of Noa and her struggle to reach safety despite her impulsive decisions, while at the same time being drawn to Astrid’s struggle to hide in plain sight of the Reich and not become too attached to those who could be taken at a moment’s notice.  Jenoff has created a magical world in which her characters and readers feel as though anything is possible, that the horrors of the Reich cannot pierce the enchanting lives of these hard-working performers.

Jenoff is one of the best writers of WWII fiction, and her characters are real and dynamic — they struggle with the horrors of the Reich but also with their own decisions and in some case indecision.  She knows this time period well, her books are always well researched, and readers know that they will be in for an intense and emotional ride on the rails with this traveling circus.  The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.  I could not put it down, even when I knew I had to.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

Pam Jenoff Author Photo credit: Mindy Schwartz-Sorasky

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.  Connect with her on her Website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Essential Readings & Study Guide by K.V. Dominic

Source: Anna at Diary of an Eccentric
Paperback, 284 pgs.
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Essential Readings & Study Guide: Poems about Social Justice, Women’s Rights, and the Environment by K.V. Dominic is a compilation of Dominic’s published poetry to date. It includes three books of previously published poetry and some unpublished poetry in one collection, as well as discussion questions at the end of each poem for those who want to go deeper into the meaning of the text. In “Helen and her World,” we’re introduced to a child whose light shines bright, but she cannot see the light herself. “She is the light of the class,/light of the family,/light of the village,/but alas the light never sees itself” Her blindness does little to impede the hope that she exudes to those around her. And like in “A Nightmare,” Dominic juxtaposes light and dark, as a lavish wedding feast is held while girls outside are fighting with dogs over trash to eat and sustain themselves.

Dominic’s poems use simple language and imagery pulled from the news or events around him to draw larger connections with others. Rather than divide by declaring someone or something other, he strives to bring together people around common causes, such as ending poverty.

Hunger’s Call (pg. 122)

A startling news with
photos from Zimbabwe!
Carcass of a wild elephant
consumed in ninety minutes!
Not by countless vultures
but by avid, famished
men and women and children.
Even the skeleton was axed
to support sinking life with soup.
Impact of globalization,
liberalization and privatization?
Or effect of hyperinflation
and economic mismanagement?
Billions are spent
by developed nations
on arms and ammunitions.
Isn’t poverty the greatest enemy?
Why not fight against it
and wipe out destitution,
pointing guns, rifles and missiles
at the chest of the poor?

While plain-spoken, Dominic also employs sarcasm to get his point across. From class struggles and poverty to global warming and globalization, Dominic seeks a greater balance, a world in which we care for the world that sustains us without succumbing to the greed of materialism and capitalism. But it doesn’t stop with how humans treat one another and instead continues to evolve this notion of balance and care to all living beings. Essential Readings & Study Guide: Poems about Social Justice, Women’s Rights, and the Environment by K.V. Dominic is a comprehensive collection of poems that speak to our maternal instincts and our desire for belonging and balance in the modern world.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Internationally acclaimed poet Prof. K. V. Dominic (Kerala, India) is the author of three major volumes of poetry about the natural world as well as social and political commentary: Winged Reason, Multicultural Symphony, and Write, Son, Write.

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Among the Lost (In Dante’s Wake) by Seth Steinzor

Source: the poet
Paperback, 220 pgs.
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Among the Lost (In Dante’s Wake) by Seth Steinzor, which is book 2 (see my review of To Join the Lost), that modernizes Dante’s Purgatorio. The poems are told in cantos and the entire book can be considered an epic poem. Readers who have never read Dante’s epic poems or have no knowledge of his work should at least get the Cliff Notes version before reading Steinzor’s books, just get the basic idea of what happens.

Following in Dante’s wake is an apt reference, as Seth (the narrator, not the poet) is mostly on his own in Purgatorio and interacting with modern inhabitants, including Abraham Lincoln. The arc may be similar between the two, but Steinzor’s work is very modern and can be followed from a contemporary viewpoint. Emerging from Hell, Seth and Dante witness the miracle of birth and, in this first canto, it is both beautiful and painful to watch. In this experience, the narrator calls to mind the connections we all share with one another through this miracle and how despite the severed umbilical cord we remain connected like the roots and branches of a larger tree (one not always visible to the naked eye).

In this way, Steinzor draws in the reader to a more personal journey, allowing us to recognize are own struggles with the seven deadly sins and the decisions and situations we make for ourselves. Even as some of the more modern references to Bush and war, Katrina, and other events are now in the past, the struggle to see the humanity in decisions made by leaders and others reflects the continued struggles of our own modern society, which appears ready to rip apart under the current administration.

From “Canto VIII: Delinquent Leaders”

but I barely paid attention: the room
had begun to spin, and I was drawn –
it must have been up, but it seemed like down – into
the darkness welling in Lincoln’s eyes.

Seth (the narrator) is looking to reunite with his lost, first love, Victoria, who has tapped Dante to be his guide to her. While he’s unsure what motivated his love for Victoria, he strives onward through purgatory — observing and interacting. With Dante less than attentive, Seth is forced to find his own way with little direction from his guide, and in many ways, this mirrors the modern world in which children are forced in many instances to navigate the world on their own as their parents are working more than one job or are inattentive themselves.

From “Canto XVII: Smoke and Morals”

“‘Mountains of faith erode much faster than those
pushed up by plate tectonics,’ I say.
‘The mountain formed by Satan’s falling through
the core of the earth might better be likened
to an igneous intrusion than an
upthrust plate,’ comes his rejoinder,
‘but, you’re right, yet it erodes'”

Among the Lost (In Dante’s Wake) by Seth Steinzor is rich in modern story and, having read the first book, it seems bleaker than the trip through hell as an almost hopelessness pervades each canto as Seth (the narrator) makes his way to his lost love. Readers will be forced to look at the modern world in which we live and decide whether their role in it should change, just as Seth is so challenged.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

To Join the Lost

About the Poet:

Seth Steinzor protested the Vietnam War during his high school years near Buffalo, New York, and his years at Middlebury College, advocated Native American causes after law school, and has made a career as a civil rights attorney, criminal prosecutor, and welfare attorney for the State of Vermont. Throughout he has written poetry. In early 1980s Boston he edited a small literary journal. His first, highly praised book, To Join the Lost, was published in 2010.

50 States, 5,000 Ideas by Joe Yogerst

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 288 pgs.
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50 States, 5,000 Ideas by Joe Yogerst is a gorgeous guide to the 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces. Each section breaks down the state or province into cities and landscapes, offers tourist information, provides a background on capitalism, and offers highlights of local favorite foods and drinks and festivals or other events. Some states have hidden treasures, while others include road trip suggestions or trivia about movies, art, or music that came from that location. Yogerst also includes little known facts in some states as well, which could be fun to test on a road trip with family or friends. Rounding out the book are gorgeous, full-color photographs of landscapes, local hubs, monuments, and animals. These provide users with a sense of what to expect when visiting these locations.

My family and I have looked through this book several times, and I took extra care in revisiting some of the states we’ve already visited, just to see what Yogerst recommended. We also checked out what he recommended within our immediate area — Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. For D.C., there is the typical Smithsonian and government buildings listed, as well as our personal favorite The National Zoo, but there were no local flavors listed such as the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl. I also noted that the National Arboretum, the Maine Avenue Fish Market, President Lincoln’s Cottage, and others were not included. Each section is probably kept minimal, but there are some great hidden treasures that shouldn’t be missed.

On the other hand, I was thrilled to notice my favorite museum as a kid, the Worcester Art Museum, made it into the list for Massachusetts. But again, here there were no mentions for the EcoTarium or the Blackstone Valley River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which has a series of trails and more for exploring the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. My hometown is the home of the Asa Waters Mansion, which was part of the Underground Railroad. Maybe I’m just being a bit too picky.

50 States, 5,000 Ideas by Joe Yogerst is not as comprehensive in finding some hidden treasures as I would prefer, but when visiting new places, the treasures he points out are just what most people would like to see. I think as a beginners guide to traveling the 50 states, this works well. There is enough within each state to occupy those interested in culture, history, and nature. I’ve had the travel bug since I was younger, and while I dreamed of visiting all 50 states someday, I’ve only seen about 19. Wish us luck as we try to tick other states off the list!

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

During three decades as an editor, writer, and photographer, Joe Yogerst has lived and worked on four continents—Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. His writing has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Islands magazine, The New York Times (Paris), and numerous National Geographic books. During that time, he has won four Lowell Thomas Awards, including one for Long Road South, his National Geographic book about driving the Pan American Highway from Texas to Argentina. Buy the book at the National Geographic Store.