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Mailbox Monday #647

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

The Attic on Queen Street by Karen White for review.

After the devastating events of the past few months, the last thing Melanie Trenholm wants is to think about the future.  Why, when her husband, Jack, has asked for a separation—a separation that might have been her fault?  Nevertheless, with twin toddlers, a stepdaughter leaving for college soon, a real estate career to resume and a historic home that is still being restored, Melanie doesn’t have much time to wonder where it all went wrong—but that doesn’t stop her from trying to win her husband back.

Their relationship issues are pushed aside, however, when longtime nemesis, Marc Longo, comes to them with a proposition:  allow their Tradd Street house to be used as the filming location for the movie adaptation of Marc’s bestselling book, and he will help Jack re-establish his stalled writing career. Despite Melanie’s hesitation, Jack jumps at the chance.  But Melanie’s doubts soon prove to be well founded when she uncovers ulterior reasons for Marc wanting to be back in their house—reasons that include a hidden gem so brilliant that legend links it to the most infamous jewel of all, the Hope Diamond.

But Melanie has an unexpected ally in protecting the house and its inhabitants—the ghost of a Civil War era girl warns her of increasing threats to her family. But she’s not the only spirit who is haunting Melanie.  A malevolent ghost seems determined to stop Melanie from investigating the decades-old murder of a friend’s sister, and this spirit will stop at nothing to protect its secrets—even from beyond the grave.

Melanie and Jack must work together to find the answers before evil spirits of past and present destroy everything they love.

What did you receive?

Escape Velocity by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut and Giveaway

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 90 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

***full disclosure: Kristin is a member of my poetry writing workshop group***

Escape Velocity by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut forces you into motion with each poem, starting with “You Say We’re Like Magnets.” She illuminates the tension — the push and pull of magnetism — between lovers even if the relationship is not quite in sync. There’s a joy in the tension, the figuring out how pieces fit, how they push each other to grow, and so much more. Ferragut’s poems have a ton of depth, but they are equally smart, beautiful, and witty (with a bit of dark humor).

from "Intermittentamorous" (pg. 20)
...
Identifying as intermittentamorous is exhausting
The on and off, yin/yang, dream
of love versus hope of freedom.

Feels like a long practice to learn to be done,
a sigh and unplugging. Skin intact, space for sleep
and a nod to the vast possibilities in silence.

The first section focuses on reactions and the movement that results from those reactions. Ferragut’s poems are intimate and relatable, whimsical, and a spiraling kaleidoscope of science, love, frustration, and moving forward in life. “A Twenty-Four-Year-Old Getting Two Dozen Roses at Forty-Nine: A Dialogue with Myself,” is a delightful examination of aging and changing perspectives.

from "Drowning" (pg. 39)

What was the cause of death?
What is the difference? When
life is terminal and living on
                  so 
                          long.

Ferragut doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff of life; she meets it head on. “Escape and Loss” explores the sadness and regret that comes with the passing of family and friends. “Guilt hides beneath fingernails;/sorrow clings to laughs’ underbellies,/they will escape despite you./But you might leave regret…” (pg. 41) Her poems will turn the world upside down for you, force you to look through a new lens to find the beauty even in darkness. There is an undercurrent of joy and hope in her poems, and perhaps this is what gives her collection the velocity it needs to let readers escape into the real world and see it through Ferragut’s eyes.

Escape Velocity by Kristin Kowalski Ferragut is a journey through life but it’s a window into the darkness to find hope and a way forward when things don’t quite go according to plan. There’s magic in these pages, and I beg you to discover the worlds created in these poems.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut teaches, plays guitar, hikes, supports her children in becoming who they are meant to be, and enjoys the vibrant writing community in the DMV. She is author of the full-length poetry collection Escape Velocity (Kelsay Books, 2021) and the children’s book Becoming the Enchantress: A Magical Transgender Tale (Loving Healing Press, 2021). Her poetry has appeared in Beltway Quarterly, Nightingale and Sparrow, Bourgeon, Mojave He[Art] Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Fledgling Rag, and Little Patuxent Review, among others. Visit her website.

To Enter the Giveaway:

Leave a comment on this post with an email so I can contact you if you win a copy of Escape Velocity. Deadline to enter is Sept. 10.

Incandescent Visions by Lee Hudspeth

Source: the poet
Hardcover, 68 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Incandescent Visions by Lee Hudspeth is a collection with big aspirations, exploring where creativity comes from and how it evolves. It also pays homage to several important people in his life. The collection is laid out in chapters, not sections, much like a memoir would be. One drawback for me was the prologues of each section and the explanation of the poems in the sections; those would have worked better at the end. I prefer to read and reread poems to sit with them, suss out meaning, absorb the feelings they generate.

From Mom

...
Sometimes it's easier to step back and be right here
On the sidewalk
From Stronger

...
In the moment, it's not about the moment
Ghostly priors, messy entanglements
Hanging like links of a heavy chain

There are moments in the collection where the reader will be beside the poet and looking at their own life and the past that haunts them. These poems aim to provide a look at how those pasts can shape us but also at how we have to let them go. There are strong moments in many of these poems, but if the aim is to explore creativity, the strongest poem in the collection is “Framework.” Imagine a blank sheet of paper with a red dot: “I hold the framework in my hands/The framework embraces me in return/It is a portal to other lands/”

Incandescent Visions by Lee Hudspeth is a debut collection with big ambitions that fall a little short, but if the poet’s explanations and prologues were kept out of the collection or to the end of the book, the poems could have stood on their own. Some poems need to be refined. Rhyming poems are generally not something I enjoy, but in this case, Hudspeth does an admirable job. If you’re looking for a collection with heart, Hudspeth opens his to you.

RATING: Tercet

About the Poet:

Lee Hudspeth is an award-winning author and poet, musician, and fellow human being. Incandescent Visions is his first book of poetry. He is the co-author of ten nonfiction books in the field of Information Technology. He has written articles for professional journals like PC Computing and Office Computing. He is the author of over one hundred articles in the online magazine The Naked PC, which he co-founded and co-published. He lives in Southern California with his wife, two sons, and their cat. Find out more about Lee, his books, and his music at LeeHudspeth.com.

The Book of Labyrinths and Mazes by Silke Vry, illustrated by Finn Dean

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 96 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Book of Labyrinths and Mazes by Silke Vry, illustrated by Finn Dean, and being published in September and is certified as climate neutral and FSC certified, is full of history and insight into the differences between labyrinths and mazes, includes fun experiments and exercises, and is beautifully illustrated. The first section explains both and their differences and offers a fun psychological experiment with a spiral. It’s a fun activity for the kids and parents.

In the second section, the book explores Labyrinths in history and myths. You can picture the Minotaur, can’t you? From Egypt to Europe and Asia, labyrinths have fascinated many cultures and have been used for different reasons. Some have been uncovered by archaeologists, while others are still a mystery and may not have existed at all. Kids will love the sample mazes and labyrinths in this section and be eager to try them out.

In the third section, the author explores mazes all over the world. Rulers often built mazes out of hedgerows as a form of entertainment for guests. The author elaborates more on the features of mazes. Throughout every section of the book, the author connects the love of mazes and labyrinths to the often winding journeys of our lives, and our need for patience to make enjoy the journey and take it one day at a time.

The Book of Labyrinths and Mazes by Silke Vry, illustrated by Finn Dean, is a delightful read that has a good deal of history, mystery, and fun activities for kids and parents. The illustrations are detailed and each page has tips and fun facts. There are instructions in how to draw your own maze, which is also a fascinating experiment for both parents and their kids. I see challenges in the future where we create mazes for each other. In the back of the book, there are a list of corn mazes and other ways to find modern mazes in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

RATING: Cinquain

Mailbox Monday #646

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

Dialogues with Rising Tides by Kelli Russell Agodon, a lovely gift wrapped poetry book from the poet.

In Kelli Russell Agodon’s fourth collection, each poem facilitates a humane and honest conversation with the forces that threaten to take us under. The anxieties and heartbreaks of life―including environmental collapse, cruel politics, and the persistent specter of suicide―are met with emotional vulnerability and darkly sparkling humor. Dialogues with Rising Tides does not answer, This or that? It passionately exclaims, And also! Even in the midst of great difficulty, radiant wonders are illuminated at every turn.

What did you receive?

Cover Reveal: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner, author of The Jane Austen Society

I absolutely loved Natalie Jenner’s debut novel, The Jane Austen Society. Today, I’m happy to be part of the cover reveal of her new novel, Bloomsbury Girls.

“Jenner’s novel, The Jane Austen Society, pays homage to Austen in a way that many other variations don’t. She understands the Austen characters and their motivations, but in creating her characters and their motivations they are not talking to us as Austen’s characters but fans of Austen’s words, her thoughts, her dreams.”

Natalie Jenner says, ““I never intended for Evie Stone to be a major character in my debut novel, let alone inspire my second one, Bloomsbury Girls. But as time went on, I found I could not leave her behind in Chawton with the other society members. And then one day I rewatched a favourite movie, 84 Charing Cross Road, and I remember thinking, there’s a whole other story in here still to be told, of an upstairs-downstairs motley crew of booksellers, and right away the figures came to life.”

Check out the Synopsis:

“One bookshop. Fifty-one rules. Three women who break them all.”

The Internationally Bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

I’ve probably made you wait long enough for the cover, but Natalie Jenner says, “As with The Jane Austen Society, Bloomsbury Girls features multiple characters and storylines revolving around one very charming location: this time, the quintessential Dickensian-type bookshop.”

WITHOUT further ado, here’s the cover for Bloomsbury Girls:

Isn’t it just gorgeous? I cannot wait to read this novel. I loved The Jane Austen Society because it was so well done. Jenner has a way of bringing multiple characters to life — they feel like friends. Bloomsbury Girls is bound to be just as good, if not better.

I cannot wait to see what everyone thinks of the book.

About the Author:

Natalie Jenner is the author of two books, the instant international bestseller THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY and BLOOMSBURY GIRLS. A Goodreads Choice Award finalist for best debut novel and historical fiction, THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, a career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and GoodReads pages.

The Understudy’s Handbook by Steven Leyva

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 108 pgs.
I am am Amazon Affiliate

The Understudy’s Handbook by Steven Leyva is musically New Orleans, but also a collection of poems about learning a role that you may or may not take on.  It takes on the pomp and circumstance of the city and reveals an underbelly of sadness and want, while paying homage to the beauty of the city and its culture. The dichotomy of New Orleans comes to life in Leyva’s poems.

 From "Inamorata" (pg. 5-6)

...
and a funk in the other
     Nola when your bounce
         leaps from speakers

comes the great gyrate
    the whole line
        all heredity backing it up

...

Where'd you sleep
   last night? In the pines?
        Nola you fat and fine

the quick-quick-slow
        that repeats
         like being sick and tired

of being sick
    and tired or late again
            on last week's rent
...

Leyva’s poems are beautiful songs full of love, passion, and sadness. It’s a collection that pays homage to the past and invents a future. It’s about leaning into a bi-racial skin and finding a path that makes the most of an American life that is not always easy and is not always the most glamorous. It’s about breaking out of the molds assigned to us and creating our own lives and incorporating cultures in ways that make the most sense for our own well-being.

Poems like “Ear Hustle” unearth the dark past of an Americanized New Orleans culture in which powdered faces from beignets are unaware of the ancestors who cut the cane for that sugar. There’s that undercurrent of culture that he explores in his poems, but not to seek a rescue but to pay homage to the sweat and the work — to the understudy of society’s labors. These poems are multilayered, while the surface appears playful and musical. It’s a collection that celebrates rather than shames, though some poems do illustrate some of the shames of American history.

One of my favorite poems in this collection, “Sonnet for the Side Eye,” examines nature’s destructive tendencies (like Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans) with humanity’s obsession with naming that destruction. Leyva is tackling a great many things in this collection, but this poem in particular takes our obsession with categorizing things head on. So much divisiveness stems from these labels. But how do we as humans get to the point where we no longer label our fellow humans as a way to harm them or treat them as “other?”

Don’t miss The Understudy’s Handbook by Steven Leyva. I heard him read at a poetry event online and had to get my hands on this book, and I wasn’t disappointed.

RATING: Cinquain

Check out this interview with Steven Leyva in ArtsFairfax.

The Weather Pop-Up Book by Maike Biederstaedt

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 14 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Weather Pop-Up Book by Maike Biederstaedt, which publishes in early September, is a great introductory book for elementary school kids to learn about tornadoes, storms, drought, and more. Earthquakes are not touched on, but the author does speak to the benefits of storms and the destruction they can cause. Moreover, the pop-up storms are larger than life and well executed. The book opens and closes easily without any snags.

Younger kids may need help pronouncing some of the terms, but the explanations are on the right level for kids to understand. Older elementary kids will grasp these concepts more easily as they begin to study Earth science in school. This would make a great addition to any teacher’s library to provide students with visual representations. The author does make the push for a move toward renewable energy and more sustainable agriculture, but it isn’t overly preachy.

The Weather Pop-Up Book by Maike Biederstaedt is definitely a good starter book for kids to learn about their environment, natural disasters, energy use, and agriculture. Weather can be something that seems not only destructive but also magical, if you understand it.

Rating: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #645

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

Billy Summers by Stephen King, which I purchased on Audible.

Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?

How about everything.

This novel is part war story, part love letter to small town America and the people who live there, and it features on of the most compelling and surprising duos in King fiction, who set out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It’s about love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption.

More Anon: Selected Poems by Maureen N. McLane from the publisher for review.

More Anon gathers a selection of poems from Maureen N. McLane’s critically acclaimed first five books of poetry.

McLane, whose 2014 collection This Blue was a finalist for the National Book Award, is a poet of wit and play, of romanticism and intellect, of song and polemic. More Anon presents her work anew. The poems spark with life, and the concentrated selection showcases her energy and style.

As Parul Seghal wrote in Bookforum, “To read McLane is to be reminded that the brain may be an organ, but the mind is a muscle. Hers is a roving, amphibious intelligence; she’s at home in the essay and the fragment, the polemic and the elegy.” In More Anon, McLane―a poet, scholar, and prizewinning critic―displays the full range of her vertiginous mind and daring experimentation.

Blue Window by Indran Amirthanayagam for review.

Blue Window/Ventana Azul captures modern love in all of its contradictory emotions, expressed online, face to face, and in memory. The poems speak to all of our love entanglements and any reader can identify with the love and loss poured into these pages. Acclaimed Chilean poet laureate Raul Zurita stated that: “Indran Amirthanayagam as an immigrant of the language, has not only rendered that language a magisterial book, Blue Window, but also a poem, “Illusion”, that is amongst the most moving love poems in the history of Spanish.” In these times of the pandemic, where all over the world we have developed a new relationship to the window, among windows, on a Zoom screen with Cyrano moved from the street outside to every windowsill, wherever the internet has travelled, on fiber optic cables set deep into the oceans, on internet balloons flying over large swatches of jungle and brush, bringing people the world over to hear poems of love and loss and love renewed, we give you Blue Window/Ventana Azul.

The Murderous Sky by Rosemary Daniell for review.

Poetry. Women’s Studies. In THE MURDEROUS SKY Rosemary Daniell confronts with searing honesty and stunning poetry the pain of her daughter’s addiction and her son’s schizophrenia. Since giving us A Sexual Tour of the Deep South in 1975, Rosemary Daniell has published numerous other volumes of poetry, fiction and memoir, as well as shepherding the famous Zona Rosa writing workshops. She returns to poetry with what is perhaps her most personal and haunting book; winner of the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Poetry Award, THE MURDUROUS SKY: POEMS OF MADNESS & MERCY is a work that will resonate for decades to come. As Gordon Walmsley says, “It took courage to write these poems, and it takes courage to read them.”

The Book of Labrinths and Mazes by Silke Vry and Finn Dean for review from Media Masters Publicity.

This brilliant book on mazes and labyrinths in history and the modern world encourages young readers to really think about why these puzzles are so appealing. Filled with photographs, drawings, artwork, illustrations, and puzzles, it takes a thematic approach to these enigmatic works. Why are we sometimes afraid to get lost—and why does the idea excite us? How do mazes and labyrinths figure in history and mythology? What can nature tell us about humankind’s obsession with lines, spirals, and patterns? Along the way children will learn about the labyrinth designed by Daedalus for King Minos in the ancient city of Crete; the mystery of the Hemet Maze Stone in southern California; and the magnificent labyrinth at the Cathedral of Chartres. They are encouraged to trace their fingers along a labyrinth to experience its soothing effect, to solve maze-related number puzzles, and to create their own mazes and labyrinths. Packed with fun facts and engaging ideas, this book will help children understand why mazes and labyrinths are so popular, while inspiring them to identify and create these fascinating puzzles in their own world.

The Weather Pop-up Book by Maike Biederstaedt for review from Media Masters Publicity.

In her hugely successful books Creatures of the Deep and What’s in the Egg, as well as her enormously popular series of greeting cards for the Museum of Modern Art, Maike Biederstaedt has established herself as one of the preeminent paper artists working today. Now Biederstaedt takes book engineering to new heights as she immerses readers in five electrifying weather scenarios. As each spread unfolds, a meticulously designed landscape emerges–a freighter balances like a nutshell between high waves in the sea; a tornado takes terrifying aim at a truck trying to outrun it; a rain-spewing storm cloud towers like a skyscraper over a farm house. Nature’s delicate beauty emerges in the intricate shapes of a snowflake and in the luminous arc of a rainbow. Each page features an informative description of its weather event and the book closes with sobering commentary on the effects of climate change. A wondrous introduction to weather for budding climatologists, this is also an artistic tour de force that collectors will treasure.

What did you receive?

Until the Right One Comes Along by Chris Haley

Source: Poet
ebook, 90 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Until the Right One Comes Along by Chris Haley is a highly emotional poetry collection about the search for the right partner. With moments of shallow assessment of other men, Haley’s narrator turns those observations on himself and finds his own appearance lacking. At more than one moment in the collection, the narrator considers himself unworthy of love and unattractive.

“When living is the dynamic you question daily”

“And for so many years I had thought I was not much to look at
Not much to glance Or stare at…

This is less a poetic collection and more of a memoir about the struggle of finding love in a world where instant gratification is prized over longevity and loyalty. He uses prose poems and rhyming verse, though the rhyming verse worked less well when I read it. The prose poems were the stand outs in this collection.

This is journey to find love is full of ups and downs, meeting someone who is the right fit but at the wrong time because you don’t love yourself enough. Meeting many wrong men to find that they only want a one-night stand.

Until the Right One Comes Along by Chris Haley explores the harsh realities of looking for companionship and love in today’s world as a LGBTQ+ person, which makes it doubly hard. It’s an emotional roller coaster, but ultimately, the message is you must first believe you are worthy of love in order to find it.

Rating: Tercet