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Mailbox Monday #620

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 it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

frank:sonnets by Diane Seuss from the publisher.

“The sonnet, like poverty, teaches you what you can do / without,” Diane Seuss writes in this brilliant, candid work, her most personal collection to date. These poems tell the story of a life at risk of spilling over the edge of the page, from Seuss’s working-class childhood in rural Michigan to the dangerous allures of New York City and back again. With sheer virtuosity, Seuss moves nimbly across thought and time, poetry and punk, AIDS and addiction, Christ and motherhood, showing us what we can do, what we can do without, and what we offer to one another when we have nothing left to spare. Like a series of cels on a filmstrip, frank: sonnets captures the magnitude of a life lived honestly, a restless search for some kind of “beauty or relief.” Seuss is at the height of her powers, devastatingly astute, austere, and―in a word―frank.

Woman Drinking Absinthe by Katherine E. Young, which I purchased.

The poems in Katherine E. Young’s Woman Drinking Absinthe concern themselves with transgressions. Lust, betrayal, guilt, redemption: Young employs fairy tales, opera, Impressionism, Japonisme, Euclidean geometry, Greek tragedy, wine, figs, and a little black magic to weave a tapestry that’s as old as the hills and as fresh as today’s headlines.

What books did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #619

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 it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright and Cass Grafton, which was free for Kindle.

Rose Wallace’s world revolves around all things Austen, and with the annual festival in Bath – and the arrival of dishy archaeologist, Dr Aiden Trevellyan – just around the corner, all is well with the world…

But then a mysterious woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to the great author moves in upstairs, and things take a disastrous turn. Rose’s new neighbour is Jane Austen, whose time travel adventure has been sabotaged by a mischievous dog, trapping her in the twenty-first century.

Rose’s life is instantly changed – new home, new job, new friends – but she’s the only one who seems to have noticed! To right the world around her, she will have to do whatever it takes to help Jane get back home to write Rose’s beloved novels. Because a world without Mr Darcy? It’s not worth living in!

And There You Were by Samantha Whitman, which was free for Kindle.

Interviewing a celebrity was a golden opportunity for aspiring journalist Juliet Evans, and solving a mystery about her past in the city her parents grew up in was even more enticing. A cryptic skeleton key would end up uniting both, and pave the way for an unforgettable quest woven throughout the romantic streets of London. Instead of unraveling the past, however, Juliet would uncover secrets that cause her life to come apart at the seams. Can she come to terms with who she is? Can she repair the damage before it’s too late? Or is everything beyond her control, left entirely up to fate to decide?

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #618

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 it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

Made to Explode by Sandra Beasley, which I purchased.

In her fourth collection, acclaimed poet Sandra Beasley interrogates the landscapes of her life in decisive, fearless, and precise poems that fuse intimacy and intensity. She probes memories of growing up in Virginia, in Thomas Jefferson’s shadow, where liberal affluence obscured and perpetuated racist aggressions, but where the poet was simultaneously steeped in the cultural traditions of the American South. Her home in Washington, DC, inspires prose poems documenting and critiquing our capital’s institutions and monuments.

In these poems, Ruth Bader Ginsberg shows up at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre’s show of Kiss Me Kate; Albert Einstein is memorialized on Constitution Avenue, yet was denied clearance for the Manhattan Project; as temperatures cool, a rain of spiders drops from the dome of the Jefferson Memorial. A stirring suite explores Beasley’s affiliation with the disability community and her frustration with the ways society codes disability as inferiority.

Quintessentially American and painfully timely, these poems examine legacies of racism and whiteness, the shadow of monuments to a world we are unmaking, and the privileges the poet is working to untangle. Made to Explode boldly reckons with Beasley’s roots and seeks out resonance in society writ large.

Keep Moving by Maggie Smith, which I purchased on Audible.

When Maggie Smith, the award-winning author of the viral poem “Good Bones”, started writing inspirational daily Twitter posts in the wake of her divorce, they unexpectedly caught fire. In this deeply moving book of quotes and essays, Maggie writes about new beginnings as opportunities for transformation. Like kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics with gold, Keep Moving celebrates the beauty and strength on the other side of loss. This is a book for anyone who has gone through a difficult time and is wondering: What comes next?

The Last Tree by Emily Haworth-Booth, which we received for review.

Once upon a time a group of friends were seeking a place to call home. The desert was too hot, the valley was too wet and the mountain was too windy.

Then they found the forest. It was perfect. The leaves gave shelter from the sun and rain, and a gentle breeze wound through the branches.

But the friends soon wanted to build shelters. The shelters became houses, then the houses got bigger. All too soon they wanted to control the environment and built a huge wooden wall around the community.

As they cut down the trees, the forest becomes thinner, until there is just one last tree standing.

It is down to the children to find a solution.

Alone! by Barry Falls, which we received for review.

There once was a boy called Billy McGill
who lived by himself at the top of a hill.
He spent every day in his house all alone
for Billy McGill liked to be on his own…

One day Billy hears the squeak of a mouse, which destroys his peaceful existence. So he gets a cat to catch the mouse. But the cat and the mouse make friends. So he gets a dog to chase the cat. But they all play together. So then he gets a bear… then a tiger… and on it goes, until Billy’s house is so filled with animals that he has to move out. Will he find that he still craves peace and quiet, or is it better to have company and friends? This a laugh-out-loud story of growing chaos, with a subtle message about how it’s good to have friends.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #617

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 it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

Diary of a Pug: Pug’s Got Talent by Kyla May, purchased for my daughter as an award for being a Super Virtual Husky student.

Bub’s human, Bella, is putting on a pet talent show! Bub can’t wait to wow the audience with his skateboarding stunts, not to mention his snazzy costume. But when dress rehearsal doesn’t go as planned, Bub finds that it’s up to him — and his archenemy Duchess the cat — to make things right. Can he and Duchess work together to make sure the show goes on?

In the Lateness of the World by Carolyn Forché for review.

Over four decades, Carolyn Forché’s visionary work has reinvigorated poetry’s power to awaken the reader. Her groundbreaking poems have been testimonies, inquiries, and wonderments. They daringly map a territory where poetry asserts our inexhaustible responsibility to each other.

Her first new collection in seventeen years, In the Lateness of the World is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death. The poems call to the reader from the end of the world where they are sifting through the aftermath of history. Forché envisions a place where “you could see everything at once … every moment you have lived or place you have been.” The world here seems to be steadily vanishing, but in the moments before the uncertain end, an illumination arrives and “there is nothing that cannot be seen.” In the Lateness of the World is a revelation from one of the finest poets writing today.

The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler for a TLC Book Tour.

The Lamps of History wrestles with the ambiguities–and choices–between connection/alienation, renewal/decay, and faith/doubt. Its poems explore dimming family histories and our stance toward them, the frayed bonds with our grandparents’ traditions and beliefs, and distances in our current relationships.

There are also poems on our civic estrangements: an ode to a papaya that spills into America’s tribal conflict; elegies to the environment (one on disappearing phytoplankton, another on forests ravaged by pine beetles); a ghazal to a semi-automatic weapon; and a failed recipe for noodle pudding.

Michael Sandler’s writing marshals wit and wordplay in a deft handling of language and form. The poetry navigates the crosscurrents of tradition and post-modernism, steering somewhat closer to the former.

Poet and editor George Bishop concludes: “This language is addictive. A stunning sense of place and story. To be read and read again.”

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #616

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 it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

Whirl Away Girl by Tricia Johnson, which I received for review.

The Question: How are You?

What is this new life you have been handed? Where does it lead? How do you even feel? Sometimes the pathway ahead is murky, seemingly impossible to pass through. Life throws you a twist you didn’t see, know or desire.

In the midst of adversity, how do you cope? How do you process? How do you move forward?

Join this poetic journey of intimate details through the ache of life’s unraveling, from the maddening free fall of diagnosis, to emerging and seeing the beautiful possibilities of living with chronic illness.

Whirl away, arms wide to embrace what is yet to come..

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #615

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 it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

Emma Lou, the Yorkie Poo: Alphabet Feelings and Friends by Kim Larkins, which I receive for review from the publisher.

Emma Lou and Pearl return with some old and new friends in Emma Lou the Yorkie Poo: Alphabet, Feelings and Friends. Join them as they experience, through a collection of whimsical rhymes, a wide range of emotions. From A to Z, Emma Lou and Pearl invite children to bring emotions to life and provide reassurance that all feelings are expected and accepted.

To cope with our changing world during this vulnerable time in our history, children now more than ever need to feel free to express their fears, worries and joys. Alphabet, Feelings and Friends is a resource for parents, educators and mental health workers to assist children in developing meaningful discussions and insight into their present experiences.

Lost But Found: A Boy’s Story of Grief and Recovery by Laura Persons, illustrated by Noah Hrbek, which I receive for review from the publisher.

Lost But Found: A Boy’s Story of Grief and Recovery deals with one of the toughest issues a parent may ever have to face-explaining to a child that a loved one has died. Often, to protect them, parents leave children out of the grieving process. This book allows adults to travel with a young boy as he works to make sense of his loss-and, in turn, their own.

I wrote this book to allow children to ask questions and talk about their fears and feelings. What I have found is that often children have better insights on these hard life questions than the adults in the room!

En Route by Jesse Wolfe for review.

In this debut poetry collection, Jesse Wolfe meditates on the journeys that carry us through life. In sections that focus on individuals, couples, and families, Wolfe employs a range of speakers and characters: male and female, young and old, wealthy and poor. Some have a clear sense of where they’re going, while others feel cast adrift; some reach back into their memories or look toward the future, while others seek an expansive present moment; some find peace and at-one-ment, while others remain in quandaries. Taken together, they offer a mosaic of consciousness, as people strive and introspect, suffer and heal, each of them en route through their overlapping stories.

Tidal Wave by Kofi Antwi for review.

Tidal Wave speaks to the interconnectedness that explores an aesthetic of abstract art. The use of ‘we’ in Tidal Wave fortifies the merge of collective voices. Akin to the community that harvest a forgotten borough, Tidal Wave emerges returning the objective placement of rhythmic science, as language is reimagined through poetic expressions. Tidal Wave explores identity, the visceral display of subconscious ramifications — bending the abstract ploy of truth. The writing encompasses a lyrical approach as it breaks free from conventional forms.

The Story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Susan B. Katz, which I purchased.

In this chapter book for kids ages 6-9, you’ll learn about how Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second woman ever to serve as a judge on the Supreme Court of the United States. Before she fought for equal rights and made history, Ruth was a curious kid who loved to read about strong women who were making important changes. You can get inspired, too, with this unique standout among Ruth Bader Ginsburg children’s books for grades 1-2.

In school, Ruth wished girls could have as many opportunities as boys. She soon learned that by studying and working hard, she could change her life―and the world. Of all the Ruth Bader Ginsburg children’s books, this one really lets you explore how she went from a Jewish girl during World War II to one of the most celebrated leaders in America.

Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty by Sonya Renee Taylor and Bianca I. Laureano

Puberty can be a difficult time for a young girl―and it’s natural not to know who (or what) to ask. Celebrate Your Body is a reassuring entry into puberty books for girls that encourages girls to face puberty with excitement and empowerment. From period care to mysterious hair in new places, this age-appropriate sex education book has the answers you’re looking for―in a way you can relate to.

Covering everything from bras to braces, this body-positive top choice in books about puberty for girls offers friendly guidance and support when you need it most. In addition to tips on managing intense feelings, making friends, and more, you’ll get advice on what to eat and how to exercise so your body is healthy, happy, and ready for the changes ahead.

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Alexander Nabaum, which I purchased.

This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy—

Talking about boogers.
Stealing pocket change.
Skateboarding.
Wiping out.
Braving up.
Executing complicated handshakes.
Planning an escape.
Making jokes.
Lotioning up.
Finding comfort.
But mostly, too busy walking home.

Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #614

It now has it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

Emerge by Francesca Marais for review.

Out of the crushing comfort of the womb-dark ocean, the poems in Francesca Marais’s Emerge rise up to the surface and breathe deeply. “Blood surges through my body, / Refusing to gently creep into the shores / Of my heart’s quiet,” she says. Untangling the tentacles of family and romance and imagination, the poet carries the reader along on a journey toward self-love and acceptance. Her advice to us? “Cherish then savour / The salt of the pain, / Lick your fingers dry.” Salt of tears, of stinging wounds, of breaking waves—to know the self requires all of these. There is ache here, but also nourishment. Emerge shows us how to stop holding our breath; how to see our own reflection in the ocean’s blue eyes.

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve, which I purchased.

In October 1947, Grace Holland is experiencing two simultaneous droughts. An unseasonably hot, dry summer has turned the state of Maine into a tinderbox, and Grace and her husband, Gene, have fallen out of love and barely speak. Five months pregnant and caring for two toddlers, Grace has resigned herself to a life of loneliness and domestic chores. One night she awakes to find that wildfires are racing down the coast, closer and closer to her house. Forced to pull her children into the ocean to escape the flames, Grace watches helplessly as everything she knows burns to the ground. By morning, her life is forever changed: she is homeless, penniless, awaiting news of her husband’s fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. With courage and stoicism, Grace overcomes devastating loss and, through the smoke, is able to glimpse the opportunity to rewrite her own story.

How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo, which I purchased.

Do you remember your first visit to where the wild things are? How about curling up for hours on end to discover the secret of the Sorcerer’s Stone? Combining clear, practical advice with inspiration, wisdom, tips, and curated reading lists, How to Raise a Reader shows you how to instill the joy and time-stopping pleasure of reading.

Divided into four sections, from baby through teen, and each illustrated by a different artist, this book offers something useful on every page, whether it’s how to develop rituals around reading or build a family library, or ways to engage a reluctant reader. A fifth section, “More Books to Love: By Theme and Reading Level,” is chockful of expert recommendations. Throughout, the authors debunk common myths, assuage parental fears, and deliver invaluable lessons in a positive and easy-to-act-on way.

Who’s Your Daddy by Arisa White, which I purchased and reviewed.

A lyrical, genre-bending coming-of-age tale featuring a queer, Black, Guyanese American woman who, while seeking to define her own place in the world, negotiates an estranged relationship with her father.

“This beautifully, honestly conceived genius of a book shook me to the core.” —Dara Wier

“What she gives us are archives, allegories, and wholly new songs.”—Terrance Hayes

“In these crisply narrative poems, which unreel like heart-wrenching fragments of film, Arisa White not only names that gaping chasm between father and daughter, but graces it with its true and terrible face.” —Patricia Smith

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #613

It now has it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs: 100+ Recipes that You’ll Love to Cook and Eat from America’s Test Kitchen Kids, which I purchased for my daughter.

For the first time ever, America’s Test Kitchen is bringing their scientific know-how, rigorous testing, and hands-on learning to KIDS in the kitchen!

Using kid-tested and approved recipes, America’s Test Kitchen has created THE cookbook every kid chef needs on their shelf. Whether you’re cooking for yourself, your friends, or your family, The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs has delicious recipes that will wow!

  • Recipes were thoroughly tested by more than 750 kids to get them just right for cooks of all skill levels―including recipes for breakfast, snacks and beverages, dinners, desserts, and more.
  • Step-by-step photos of tips and techniques will help young chefs feel like pros in their own kitchen
  • Testimonials (and even some product reviews!) from kid test cooks who worked alongside America’s Test Kitchen will encourage young chefs that they truly are learning the best recipes from the best cooks.

By empowering young chefs to make their own choices in the kitchen, America’s Test Kitchen is building a new generation of confident cooks, engaged eaters, and curious experimenters.

The Young Chef: Recipes and Techniques for Kids Who Love to Cook from the The Culinary Institute of America, which my daughter received from my cousin for Christmas.

Aspiring chefs turn to The Culinary Institute of America for top-tier training—and now younger cooks can too. Coauthored by chef-instructor (and parent) Mark Ainsworth, this book is for kids ages ten to fourteen who love to cook or who want to learn how, from the perspective of the nation’s best culinary college. It begins with techniques—from key cooking methods to staying safe in the kitchen to how food fuels your body—then augments those lessons with more than one hundred recipes for dishes that kids (and their families and friends) will love, from Chinese “Takeout” Chicken and Broccoli to Mexican Street Corn Salad to DIY Hummus to Raspberry Shave Ice. These recipes are easy enough that beginners can try them with confidence, but are loaded with insider tips, fun facts, kitchen vocab, and other teaching moments so that more adventurous junior cooks can use them as a springboard to take their skills to the next level, express their culinary creativity, and have fun in the kitchen!

love, loss and the enormity of it all by Kelly Catharine Bradley for review.

This book is for the heartbroken and grieving. I see you.“let’s… sit close with gentleness and compassion to heal our grieving hearts together …”

“love, loss and the enormity of it all” addresses themes of grief, joy, love, heartbreak and perseverance.

Valuing: Poems by Christopher Kondrich for review.

In his second collection, Christopher Kondrich navigates the link between what we see as our inner value and the external world that supplies it. Valuing’s deeply personal poems explore faith, love, ethics, and mortality from a variety of angles and through a variety of poetic forms as a means of questioning the origination of one’s own value system. Does it come from the belief in a god, from the love one gives or receives, or from the diminution of the self and its desires? If “you cannot sneak through your life,” as the speaker of one of Valuing’s poems proclaims, then how might one ensure that the noise a life inevitably makes is an echo of the values one holds dear?

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #612

It now has it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

Carpe F*cking Diem, a gift from Anna at Diary of an Eccentric. (She seems to know me too well!)

A journal to stop the bullsh*t and seize the f*cking day―the perfect undated journal for every thought, list, note, or entry!

Packed with profanity and the IDGAF spirit, this is the perfect journal to say it like it is and get back to what matters. Finally ditch the anxiety, shake off the stress, and take a moment each day to focus on the number one f*cking person in your life―you! Based on the bestselling Carpe F*cking Diem Planner, this is the perfect undated journal to replace your tired old notebook and up your stationery game.

With journal pages, space for list-making, and laugh-out-loud swears, this is the journal that encourages you to embrace the c’est la f*cking vie attitude and focus on your happiness.

Hilarious and with a self-care attitude that tells you to take a damn nap and eat that f*cking ice cream, this is the perfect gift for the sweary person in your life and the ideal journal to carry with you all damn day.

Out of No Way: Madam C.J. Walker & A’Lelia Walker, a poetic drama by Roje Augustin, which I purchased.

Author, producer, and emerging poet Rojé Augustin has written a groundbreaking debut collection of dramatic poems about hair care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter, A’Lelia. Rojé’s singular and accomplished work is presented through the intimate lens of the mother-daughter relationship via different poetic forms — from lyric to haiku, blackout to narrative. (One poem takes its inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.) Written in tribute to Walker, Out of No Way deftly and beautifully explores themes of race, motherhood, sacrifice, beauty, and the meaning of success in Jim Crow America.

Raising King by Joseph Ross, which I purchased.

Poetry. RAISING KING urges readers to walk beside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Montgomery to Memphis, past police dogs, mobs, and fire hoses. Listen to his thoughts, hopes, and fears. You’ll also hear from heroes including Abernathy, Shuttlesworth, and Coretta Scott King.-Joseph Ross

In his beautiful collection of poems evoking the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, Joseph Ross offers his readers hope and inspiration for our own difficult times. These poems call us to revive our courage, moral convictions, and belief in the ultimate redemption of humanity.-Susannah Heschel

Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth: New and Selected Poems, 2001-2021 by Yusef Komunyakaa for review from the publisher.

New and selected poems from the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet

These songs run along dirt roads
& highways, crisscross lonely seas
& scale mountains, traverse skies
& underworlds of neon honkytonk,
Wherever blues dare to travel.

Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth brings together selected poems from the past twenty years of Yusef Komunyakaa’s work, as well as new poems from the Pulitzer Prize winner. Komunyakaa’s masterful, concise verse conjures arresting images of peace and war, the natural power of the earth and of love, his childhood in the American South and his service in Vietnam, the ugly violence of racism in America, and the meaning of power and morality.

The new poems in this collection add a new refrain to the jazz-inflected rhythms of one of our “most significant and individual voices” (David Wojahn, Poetry). Komunyakaa writes of a young man fashioning a slingshot, workers who “honor the Earth by opening shine / inside the soil,” and the sounds of a saxophone filling a dim lounge in New Jersey. As April Bernard wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “He refuses to be trivial; and he even dares beauty.”

The Gospel according to H.L. Hix for review.

Literary Nonfiction. Religion. First we have to talk about the elephant in the room–though that might not be the most polite term for Jesus! For many millions of people around the world, Jesus is the Son of God, the divine source of their salvation, his story told in the familiar four gospels of the Bible, and any tampering with that story understandably will be met with suspicion, distrust, even hostility. So let’s begin with what this book isn’t. H. L. Hix covers this in detail in his Introduction to “The Gospel,” but for now it’s enough to say that this isn’t Jesus Christ, Superstar, or The Last Temptation of Christ. Nothing in this Gospel secularizes or desacralizes Jesus Christ. You don’t get less of the divine Jesus here, you get more. That’s because Hix has gone back to the original source materials, both the canonical and noncanonical gospels and histories and stories of the life of Jesus, and created out of them a single, more comprehensive and nuanced narrative. A good analogy is to film editing. Most movie directors shoot more film than ever makes it into the version we see on the screen, film that ends up on the editing room floor, the result of commercial decisions often far removed from the director’s vision of the film. Occasionally the director gets the chance to re-edit the film to restore that lost material, producing a “Director’s Cut” that may be very different from the commercial film release. So we can think of “The Gospel” as an ultimate “Director’s Cut” of the story of Jesus, with all of those bits that didn’t make the official version (edited by early church leaders to serve a specific agenda) at last restored. Something for those enthusiasts who want to dig deeper, to know more. But that’s not all he’s done. Among other virtues of his “Gospel,” Hix has restored the meanings of essential words as they would have been understood by contemporary audiences when the source materials were first written, overcoming what he calls “translation inertia”, the tendency to retain a translation over time even after the sense of the word has changed for current readers. Thus “Lord” becomes “Boss”, and the apostles “apprentices”, changes that allow for a novel understanding of the role of Jesus and of believers’ relationship to him. Also of crucial importance, Hix has eliminated gendered language wherever possible, in the process inventing new terms that decouple our understanding of Jesus and divinity from the limitations of gendered human bodies and relationships. Thus “Son” becomes “Xon”, for example, a form of literary transubstantiation that renders the divine even more transcendent, in the process opening the Gospel and its promise of salvation to greater inclusivity. Gospel, of course, means “good news.” And the very good news of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO H. L. HIX  for believers and for non-believers alike, is that what has been called “the greatest story ever told,” the life of Jesus, just got greater.

Incandescent Visions by Lee Hudspeth for review.

Having written numerous works of nonfiction, this is Lee Hudspeth’s debut book of poetry. Incandescent Visions explores the meaning of the human experience, as the author encourages his readers to ponder the universe and their place within it and to catalyze their own creative potential. From the sublime shores of the Mediterranean to the majestic expansiveness of deep space, this book contemplates nostalgia, perspective and the gift of love. Through five short yet powerful, thought-provoking chapters of contemporary poems—and a dash of elegant, evocative haiku—Hudspeth takes his readers on a journey across the inner landscape of struggle, triumph, self-realization, and imagination.

Made of Air by Naomi Thiers for review.

The poems in Made of Air argue for a deeper, more woman-centric definition of courage, a courage borne of the long haul. There are poems on the deaths of loved ones and mothering a teenager. One remarkable sonnet relates how a mother makes a U-turn off a ramp just before a bridge collapses in an earthquake. These poems celebrate the lives of women and girls and commemorate the daily ways they navigate through potential disaster—and come through dancing.

Kim Roberts, editor of By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital and author of five poetry collections, including The Scientific Method

Naomi Thiers shows women and girls who hold things together. From the “cliff-high condo where we eat” to those sheltering in “a concrete pocket of unremarkable hidden things,” her characters emerge, vulnerable as a flame in a dry season. Like Thiers’ previous collections, her new work transfigures ordinary, “silenced people,” as Tillie Olsen called them, “consumed in the hard, everyday essential work of maintaining human life.” Can we bear to look at who we are now? Thiers’ poetry says yes—and we must, to help each other hold together.

Rose Marie Berger, Senior Editor, Sojourners magazine and author of Bending the Arch: Poems

Naomi Thiers’ Made of Air is a story of courage—or, more to the point, many such stories. It is a chronicle of endurance: the “ordinary women” in the book’s first section endure homelessness, illness, abuse, the murder of their children, and in doing so, become extraordinary. Thiers’ compassion and insight shine through in language that is vivid and luminous. The ending of her poem “Old People Waking” sums up the theme of the entire book: “And if everything hurts, it means / the current is flowing; we hiss inside: / Live. Live.

Miles David Moore, author of The Bears of Paris and founder of the IOTA Poetry Series

Everyone Disappears by W. Luther Jett, which I purchased.

In this follow-up to his earlier chapbook, Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father (FLP, 2015), Luther Jett confronts the ephemeral nature of our lives, the process of grief, and the endurance of memory. Jett draws upon recollections of family, as well as historical events and forces to weave a tapestry of image and reflection. Loss “… comes with the ticking of clocks …” the author reminds us in his title poem, “… and that is why the ocean tastes of tears.” Jett writes of ghostly grandfather clocks that walk in the night, of forgotten toys scattered in an unmown lawn, of the importance and the hidden dangers of holding on to memory. “What can I sing to tell your feast?” Jett asks in the poem “Seamus”, adding in his later poem, “One by One”, “I chant the names of things long after they have gone.”

Maryland’s Poet Laureate, Grace Cavalieri says of Jett’s work: “[N]ever have the dead been more alive …. Subtle and intelligent stories, realized through the power of Jett’s voice, make life appear on every page.” In this time of world-wide pandemic and upheaval, “Everyone Disappears” may take on additional resonance as we grope for understanding in the face of tragedy and uncertainty.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama, which I received as a gift.

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #611

It now has it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

Randolph the Christmas Moose by Gerry Gibson for review.

Randolph the Moose lives with his mother in the Great White North. After a chance encounter with the reindeer from Santa Claus’ sleigh-pulling team, Randolph finds new joy in trail running as he trains to join the reindeer in Santa’s flight school. But when the head elf places him at the workshop loading dock instead (due to his tremendous bulk), Randolph has to use his brains and work ethic to earn respect at his new job… and even save Christmas.

Imagine Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer, except…

  • Randolph has a healthy self-image
  • Randolph has a more positive outlet for his feelings
  • Randolph runs, but not away from his problems
  • Randolph is pro-active, refusing to let Santa’s workshop define him as a moose

BE YOUR OWN MOOSE!

The Magic Home by Isabella Cassina for review.

The Magic Home is a story for those who believe in magic, to turn fear into bravery and let fantasies run wild! This is a tale of a little boy that lives with his family, plays happily in the courtyard with his brother, sister, a brown dog and a fluffy white rabbit, and cannot wait to start school. Suddenly he has to leave for an unpredictable journey…

The Magic Home offers psycho-educational support for children, parents and childhood professionals who are assisting children through the difficult transition of displacement. The author presents a guide for caregivers grounded in the principles of Play Therapy that allows children to be engaged in a dynamic and engaging process based on their capacities and the objectives defined by a caring adult. The book is ideal for easy reading with individuals and groups, and the suggested activities can be used between parent and child, at school, in a healthcare agency or any other place where children spend time.

Dos Idiomas, One Me by Maggy Williams for review.

Dos Idiomas, One Me is the story of a young girl who feels torn between two languages. At home, she speaks Spanish, at school, she speaks English, and she finds herself resenting the fact that she has to translate her thoughts and feelings. Then, she realizes that being bilingual is a gift. She begins to have fun navigating the space of inclusivity and starts to relish the role of teacher and translator.

By equally incorporating Spanish and English, Dos Idiomas, One Me promotes biliteracy. As young readers see their experiences reflected in the story of another dual-language speaker, they can feel encouraged to embrace all aspects of themselves.

Lucky G and the Melancholy Quokka by Amy Wilinski-Lyman for review.

This book grabs you from the outset and takes you on a hopeful journey: A colorful, spunky raven (with a Ph.D.) travels to Australia to meet a quokka who has lost his true smile, finds it hard to move and isn’t hanging out with friends anymore. Dr. G knows that depression is the culprit, and extends a listening ear and helping hand, all the while reassuring the quokka that lots of adults and kids feel depression, too!

We’re All Not the Same, But We’re Still Family by Theresa Fraser and Eric E. Fraser for review.

This story was written for adoptive families to explore the benefits of adoption openness. The main character, Deshaun, loves his family but always wondered about his biological family. Does he look like them? Did they love him? With the support of his adoptive parents, Deshaun gets to meet his biological family. They develop an ongoing relationship, so Deshaun feels more stable in his adoptive family, but also develops a comfortable relationship with his birth family. Deshaun and his family are reminded (as we all are) that family can include biological, adopted, foster and kin members.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #610

It now has it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

Suburban Souls by Maria Espinosa for review.

Against the vibrant and liberated backdrop of 1970’s San Francisco, a husband and wife-both Jewish immigrants indelibly traumatized by their childhoods in Nazi Germany-face the turbulence of an increasingly sterile marriage. Saul, an emotionally withdrawn scientist, escapes into New Age mysticism with Shivaya, a self-styled clairvoyant Danish healer. Gerda drifts in and out of psychiatric care as her loosening grip on reality leaves its mark on their teenage daughter, Hannah. In this unflinching portrait of a woman’s downward spiral into the nightmare of modern domesticity, Maria Espinosa weaves a deceptively simple tale about the terror of abandonment and the mysterious nature of suffering.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #609

It now has it’s 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.

Leslie, 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.

Here’s what we received:

A story of THE WORLD before the FENCE by Leeya Mehta, which I purchased from Finishing Line Press.

A Story of The World Before The Fence is a lush, lyrical study of memory and history.  These poems move deftly between the mystical and the known, inviting readers to travel backwards in time and forwards into themselves.  Each of us struggles with the heavy-handedness of the past: its merciless shaping of the larger world and, of course, its unrelenting squeeze on our individual lives.  Through intense reflection and beautiful invention, Leeya Mehta’s poems offer a kind of second sight.

–Tim Seibles

Whether tracing the 10th century journey of religious refugees from Persia to a tender but continually ambivalent asylum in India or dwelling in the complicities and solidarities of our own era, this is a troubled look at belonging, where belonging is ever “like loving a corpse” among “history’s sad funerals”. Mehta’s compassion and clear, unhurried tone leaven the seriousness and ambition of the work’s intellectual horizons, and an emotional power and turbulence as deep as that in certain moods of its Anacostia River: “brown knot of sludge, // a dragon aching.”

–Vivek Narayanan

Through centuries and across continents, Leeya Mehta evokes the transgenerational trauma of her ancestors, the Zoroastrian Parsis, to narratively structure an intimate, feminocentric experience of cultural and personal displacement. Her haunting poems, with their hard-won wisdom and exquisite imagery, serve as “a warning that the screws of love sit deep in the bone” despite—yet, perhaps, because of—the various forms of exile that complicate identities, relationships, and senses of place.  A Story of the World Before the Fence acknowledges “how barriers can keep / wandering spirits separate from those they love,” but it nevertheless consoles us with the miracle that is laughter: a universal language that can still anchor us to one another and help us learn to forgive ourselves for what we have lost along the way.

–Randi Ward

Warbler by Jane Schapiro

Steeped though it is in grief and loss, glory shines through in Jane Schapiro’s new poetry collection, Warbler. As she writes in the book’s epigraph, Tears are the soul bathing itself. There is much melancholy beauty in the book’s dirges, and toward the end, splendor has the last word. In the book’s penultimate poem, azaleas bloom in an explosion of color, from the dark “tangle of shrubs / that spawned such a glorious sight.”

—Rennie McQuilkin, CT Poet Laureate (2015-2018)

Warbler, Jane Schapiro’s new book of poems, is an achingly beautiful paean to family, friendship, love, and memory. It is also a searing reminder that loss, illness, and grief must play their parts as well.

The book has an organic feel, from line to line, from poem to poem. We are pulled into human connection and human frailty. We hear the rabbi say, “Even the blank spaces / are God given” so we keep looking as we move into middle age for peace, for less anxiety, for less pain. Some days “in the mirror, / she’ll spot her former self like a star, / reflecting a fire long since burned out.” And then, “the veil lifts, / reveals the world as a luminous bride . . . / Ah, sweet life. Sweet, inviting life. ”These poems stay in the mind and heart and invite rereading again and again. Warbler sings of hard and beautiful truths in a singular voice.

—Deirdre Neilen, Editor The Healing Muse

What did you receive?