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The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Source: Berkley
Hardcover, 400 pgs
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The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner is a novel of lasting friendship — one that surpasses the bounds of culture and war, as well as separation. Elise Sontag, a German American, finds that life during WWII becomes increasingly complicated when her father is arrested by the FBI in Davenport, Iowa. When her father is gone for months, his bank accounts are frozen, and the family is left to fend for itself, Elise learns that her school chums can be less mean than the world around her. Although she’s shunned at school, the sneers of passersby and neighbors, as well as the distrust from her father’s co-workers, are far worse. Through it all, she must be strong for her mother.

“Months later, in the internment camp, Mariko would tell me she believed there were two kinds of mirrors. There was the kind you looked into to see what you looked like, and then there was the kind you looked into and saw what other people thought you looked like.” (pg. 28)

When the entire family is reunited in Crystal City, an internment camp, she learns that even among the perceived “sympathizers” there are more Americans like her. But camp politics can be hard to navigate as someone who doesn’t see how she is perceived by those in the camp. Her focus is on trying to return to a normal life at the Federal School in the camp and befriending Mariko Inoue, a Japanese American from Los Angeles, who also feels more American than Japanese.

Meissner tackles a lot of larger themes, but the theme running through Elise Sontag’s narrative is one of identity. When our home country considers us the enemy, how do we reconcile that with who we know ourselves to be? How can we retain the goodness of our souls without succumbing to the perceptions of others? Can we hold onto what we know about ourselves when others see us as the enemy and send us to a place we feel is hostile to us because they also see us as the enemy?

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner is a stunning novel about the last year of World War II from the untenable situation of a young American girl thrust behind enemy lines by her own nation. It is about the friendship that can blossom amidst terrible and heartbreaking conditions. This is a WWII novel that will grip your heart, squeeze it and leave readers wanting more. (I personally would want to read Mariko’s story!)

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. She is an author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include As Bright as Heaven, starred review in Library Journal; Secrets of  Charmed Life, a Goodreads finalist for Best Historical Fiction 2015; and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Visit Susan at her website; on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at Facebook.

Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories by Sarah Lerner

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 192 pgs.
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Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories edited by Sarah Lerner is deeply moving and filled with passion — a passion for making a difference and a passion for the lives that were cut too short and should be remembered. From students to teachers, these essays, poems, photos, and drawings will make you an emotional mess. Reading through this collection, you can tell how scared these kids were when the shooting occurred on Feb. 14 , 2018. The lives of these unsuspecting students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was upended by one school shooter.

The initial reaction was disbelief because many thought the second fire drill was just routine, but the rapid fire soon became the scariest thing they had ever heard. Many lamented they didn’t stick to their routines and wait for friends, while others wanted to have done more to save their friends. There was the interminable wait for their friends to respond, but the silence was deafening. The heavy weight of sadness was soon wielded as a weapon against those who dare not to talk about gun reform, with many kids marching and lobbying for change still.

From “Can’t You Hear?” by Alyson Sheehy

You can blame what you want, pull on whatever thread
Bully us into silence and treat us like we don’t matter.
However, don’t forget there is no future when all of us are dead
Although it seems that is still not enough for all lives to matter.

Can’t you hear the screams now? Cause they are only growing louder.

The speech from Emma Gonzalez is widely known, but it bears repeating.

From “We Call BS” speech by Emma Gonzalez

“The students at this school have been having debates on guns for what feels like our entire lives. AP Gov had about three debates this year. Some discussions on the subject even occurred during the shooting while students were hiding in closets. The people involved right now, those who were there, those posting, those tweeting, those doing interviews and talking to people, are being listened to for what feels like the very first time on this topic that has come up over 1,000 times in the past four years alone…”

Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories edited by Sarah Lerner must have been a cathartic experience for the writers, artists, and photographers who participated in sharing their stories, emotions, and trauma with readers. It’s a must read for anyone who does not understand the movement toward gun control. Our world has changed, our children are no longer safe in school, and more guns are not a viable solution.

Rating: Quatrain

Sleepover at the Museum by Karen LeFrak, Illustrated by David Bucs

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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Sleepover at the Museum by Karen LeFrak, illustrated by David Bucs, is a delightful read full of adventure and riddles for young readers to solve. A trio of friends, including the birthday boy Mason, are invited to have a sleepover at the museum. This is an adventure that they will never forget, as it tests their knowledge of history, evolution, and biology. These friends work well together solving the riddles and in the process Mason gets to imagine what it would be like to sleep in each of the rooms at the museum. Which one will he actually pick, is something readers will have to find out for themselves.

This was a book that my daughter and I read together over several days as she did her nightly reading. There were some large words like “biodiversity” and “behemoth” that were a challenge for an early reader, but sounding out smaller chunks helped her get through them. She loved reading the riddles with Mason and his friends and even figured some out on her own. She was very proud that she knew some of the answers. The images are detailed and colorful and will have kids looking at everything all at once.

Sleepover at the Museum by Karen LeFrak, illustrated by David Bucs, will test kids’ imaginations and knowledge, as well as ensure they strengthen their vocabularies. My daughter was thrilled with this book, and enjoyed following Mason on his birthday trek through the various parts of the museum.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Karen LeFrak is a creative and philanthropic New Yorker. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Mt. Holyoke College. Karen continued her education earning an MA in Music History from Hunter College. Her thesis “In Search of the New Classics,” which surveyed the commissioning activity of the New York Philharmonic from 1842-1986, won the Dean’s Award in Arts and Humanities. Karen’s education also includes courses in archival management and historical editing at New York University. In 2010, in recognition of outstanding achievement, the Hunter College Alumni Association elected her to the Hunter College Hall of Fame.

About the Illustrator:

David Bucs studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. After working in the animation industry in Los Angeles as an art director and character designer, David moved to Beijing, where he was a designer in a 3D animation studio. He loves to create characters, bringing them to life through strong expression using digital media. David is the illustrator of Sleepover at the Museum by Karen Lefrak (forthcoming from Crown/Penguin Random House). He has also created artwork for Capstone, Highlights magazine, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt leveled readers. David lives with his wife and young son in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where life is sweet. Find him online: @davidbucs / davidbucs.com.

Poe Won’t Go by Kelly DiPucchio and Zachariah Ohora

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 40 pgs.
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Poe Won’t Go by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora, is a tale to teach young and old a little patience, compassion, and kindness. Poe is a rather large elephant who impedes the flow of traffic in a town that is full of pushy people. He won’t budge, no matter what they say or do to him. He’s there for a reason, a young girl says, and she takes charge to find out why.

Marigold demonstrates compassion for Poe, speaking to him in a kind way to find out why he’s come to their town. Stop and listen and you might know why.

Zachariah Ohora’s simple, colorful images are perfect for young readers. They provide easily recognizable shapes and animals to make it easier for them to infer the story. Coupled with DiPucchio’s story, Poe Won’t Go, is a delight.

RATING: Cinquain

Pat Review: Button Man by Andrew Gross

Source: Tandem Literary
Hardcover, 384 pgs.
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About the Book:

Morris, Sol, and Harry Rabishevsky grew up poor and rough in a tiny flat on the Lower East Side, until the death of their father thrust them into having to fend for themselves and support their large family. Morris, the youngest, dropped out of school at twelve years old and apprenticed himself to a garment cutter in a clothing factory; Sol headed to accounting school; but Harry, scarred by a family tragedy, fell in with a gang of thugs as a teenager. Morris steadily climbs through the ranks at the factory until at twenty-one he finally goes out on his own, convincing Sol to come work with him. But Harry can’t be lured away from the glamour, the power, and the money that come from his association with Louis Buchalter, whom Morris has battled with since his youth and who has risen to become the most ruthless mobster in New York. And when Buchalter sets his sights on the unions that staff the garment makers’ factories, a fatal showdown is inevitable, pitting brother against brother.

My mom picked up Button Man by Andrew Gross as soon as it entered the house — I barely saw the book. With so many changes in the last year and a big move at the end of last year, I’ve had very little time to read review books. Mom, however, seems to find a great deal of time to read and her access to those unexpected review copy surprises makes dad happy that the book budget is smaller. I digress.

Mom is a big fan of Andrew Gross’ books, and this one was no different. She read through this one in a couple of days, riveted by the story and the historical setting. It was intriguing how an unexpected moment can change someone’s life, she says. She thought it was very well written and loved the suspense.

She would give it 5 stars.

About the Author:

Andrew Gross is the author of New York Times and international bestsellers The Blue Zone, Don’t Look Twice, and The Dark Tide, which was nominated for the Best Thriller of the Year award by the International Thriller Writers, Reckless, and most recently, Eyes Wide Open. He is also coauthor of five number one bestsellers with James Patterson, including Judge & Jury and Lifeguard. He lives in Westchester County, New York, with his wife, Lynn. You can follow Andrew Gross on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and at AndrewGross Books.com.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 44 pgs.
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All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman celebrates inclusiveness and diversity, sending the message to parents and kids that everyone is welcome in their school, in their class, and even outside the confines of school. The colorful illustrations remind kids that the world is a rainbow and that as individuals come together we are a beautiful kaleidoscope.

The simple rhymes will be easy for younger children to follow as their parents read to them, and reading for beginning learners will be smooth. Although the kids will not see the names of the children depicted, there are kids like themselves drawn in these pages — those with dark skin, light skin, full head coverings, curly hair, straight hair, wheelchairs, and so much more. This is a book that reflects the reality of not only the United States but the world.

It’s not a book that points out differences for inspection, but demonstrates the fun that can be had together in a group even if we are different. The focus is on the things we can do together — games on the playground, art and music created, the class participation when the teacher asks questions, the discoveries that can be made.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman, which emerged from a poster that went viral, is delightful, colorful, and just what kids need to remind them that divisiveness is unnecessary and not the way to live.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Authors:

Alexandra Penfold is the author of Eat, Sleep, Poop (Knopf, 2016) and the forthcoming picture books The Littlest Viking (Knopf) and Everybody’s Going to the Food Truck Fest (FSG). She is also a literary agent at Upstart Crow, where one of her clients is Suzanne Kaufman! Learn more about Alex on Twitter at @agentpenfold.

Suzanne Kaufman is an author, illustrator, and animator. Over the years she’s done everything from animating special effects for Universal Television and the Discovery Channel to animating award-winning video games for children. She’s the illustrator of a number of books for children including Samanthasaurus Rex by B. B. Mandell, the forthcoming Naughty Claudine by Patrick Jennings, 100 Bugs by Kate Narita and her own book, Confiscated! among others. Learn more about Suzanne online at suzannekaufman.com or on Twitter at @suzannekaufman.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Source: publisher
Paperback, 48 pgs.
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We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins is a delightful book that teaches children about how to fit in with new classmates, especially after a rough first day of school.  Penelope is a T-Rex and she finds children tasty. Unfortunately, her classmates are children and she does the unthinkable.

Thankfully, no real harm was done and the teacher gets her to spit them out. Penelope has to learn how to co-exist with her classmates, even if she finds them tasty. Higgins uses a T-Rex to demonstrate how hard it is to join a new class and to start school when you’ve never been before. Her parents have prepared her for lunch at school, or did they?

Her teacher is very adamant about treating her classmates not as food, but even her initial attempts are rebuffed. When she returns home, her father gives her some advice about how children at the same on the inside as Penelope herself. This is a big lesson for all children. But like human children, Penelope fails to learn her lesson until someone treats her just as badly.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins has colorful images of the Penelope T-Rex and her classmates. I found the text easy to read for early readers, and the message is appropriate for this age group.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Ryan T. Higgins is five feet eleven inches tall and has no sense of smell. He doesn’t like to wear shoes, but he does like salmonloaf and bike rides (not together). Instead of reading a long author’s bio, Ryan would rather you forget about him and visit the website!

Louisiana Catch by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Today’s review is not for poetry as expected this month, but rest assured, the author is a poet.

Sweta Vikram’s poetry has appeared on this blog previously, and I’m humbled to call her a friend. She is particularly talented as you can tell from her previous books and this debut novel.

Happy launch day, my friend.

***Mark your calendar DMV residents! Sweta Vikram will be at the Curious Iguana bookstore in Frederick, Md., on May 27 4-5pm***

I’ll be there, but will you!

Source: publisher
Paperback, 268 pgs.
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Louisiana Catch by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is more than just a novel that captures our current time where the Internet is pervasive and many of us have allowed our walls of privacy to fall. It is a novel in which Ahana Chopra is forced to live her own life and discover on what terms she wants to live that life — a woman no longer under the wing of her mother and no longer under the thumb of her husband in New Delhi, India.

A quote from Socrates — “To find yourself, think for yourself.” — is a perfect summation of a novel in which the protagonist goes on a spiritual, emotional, and physical journey to self discovery, like that of Vikram’s Ahana. Vikram’s main character has a strong voice, even if her convictions waver from time to time as the shroud of mourning gathers about her unexpectedly. But once outside her cloistered world, she has no choice but to examine her world and her place in it. She must make choices that can either lead to her own happiness or force her down the same dark path she walked before.

“At social gatherings, I want to disappear and become invisible.” (pg. 1 ARC)

The dark threads of the novel outline the loneliness of marital abuse and the sinkholes the Internet can disguise when catfishers seek new prey, but the light threads are the inner strength Ahana cultivates as she strives to make a safe place for women who’ve been victims of abuse. She also has solid friendships — with Rohan and others — and family relationships to lean on. As her mother’s wise words come to Ahana, she gains strength and learns to move forward, if cautiously.

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” (pg. 182 ARC)

Vikram’s novel is a tapestry of hope sprung from pain and shines as a beacon for those who need a gentle push away from the darkness in their lives. Fiction can be an escape and showcase an amazing story, but Vikram uses her words and characters to help change lives and give strength to those who need it. Louisiana Catch by Sweta Srivastava Vikram takes readers on a multi-continental and multi-cultural journey that mirrors our own world today, but it begs us to make changes.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a best-selling author of 11 books, a wellness columnist, and a mindfulness writing coach.  Featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” Sweta writes about women, multiculturalism, and identity. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nice countries and three continents. Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press 2018) is her debut U.S. novel. Born in India, Sweta grew up between the Indian Himalayas, Northern Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. Exposure to this vast societal spectrum inspired her to become an advocate for social issues and also to get certified as a Holistic Health Counselor. In this avatar, Sweta is the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife through which she helps people elevate their productivity and creativity using Ayurveda and yoga. A certified yoga teacher, Sweta also teaches yoga and mindfulness to female survivors of rape and domestic violence. She lives with her husband in New York City.

Enter to win 1 copy of Louisiana Catch by Sweta Vikram (Kindle ebook for international entrants or print copy for U.S. residents)

Other Reviews:

Walk With Me by Debra Schoenberger

Source: the author
ebook, 108 pgs.
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Walk with Me by Debra Schoenberger is just that a journey along with the photographer as she explores not only her own city of Victoria, British Columbia, but places to which she’s traveled. Her pictures range from the mundane moments of empty chairs in a restaurant to the pilled moisture on fruit. Her macro shots are detailed and well contrasted, and her close-ups of people illustrate the unbridled joy found in daily jaunts.

Schoenberger chooses to frame not only every day moments, but also colors that we often forget we see.  Highlighting the rainbows present in our busy lives demonstrates to readers of her book that there is more to our life than those scheduled appointments and deadlines. We need to remember those colors, those giggles of children’s laughter, and soft touch of petals on our skin. We can breathe in the scent of life to calm us and look at our neighborhoods to find the humor lost in large window displays.

Walk with Me by Debra Schoenberger is a journey, a meditation, and a pause for readers. I would like to have known where some of the photos were shot because there are some really interesting places captured here. They could be anywhere in the world, or right down the street.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Debra Schoenberger aka #girlwithcamera

“My dad always carried a camera under the seat of his car and was constantly taking pictures. I think that his example, together with pouring over National Geographic magazines as a child fueled my curiosity for the world around me.

I am a documentary photographer and street photography is my passion. Some of my images have been chosen by National Geographic as editor’s favorites and are on display in the National Geographic museum in Washington, DC.  I also have an off-kilter sense of humor so I’m always looking for the unusual.  Website ~  Facebook ​~ Instagram ~  Pinterest

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How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Source: Wunderkind PR
Paperback, 100 pgs.
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How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is emotionally arresting and a love letter to the past and the passing of a mother. How many times have we said, “I’ll get back to that in a few days” or “It’s only for a year.” Many of us have said these things and others when speaking with friends, parents, and others. In this busy world, we often forget to go back to those events or people. This leaves an emptiness. How do you deal with that emptiness or learn to love that emptiness?

In “My Mother Wants to Know If I’m Dead,” Aptowicz’s narrator finds an email from her mother asking if she’s died because she has not let her know that she’s arrived safely. These are real life situations that come to life in poems throughout the collection. She points out the inanity of these emails if the receiver is in fact deceased, but she also acknowledges the sentiment and the anxiety and the worry behind the contact. These are moments we all can relate to, understand, and lament.

“Rabbit Hole” is the poem in this collection that brings the whole together. It hammers home the connections between the poems and the struggle with emptiness.

Holding your mother's hand
while she is dying is like trying to love
the very thing that will kill you.

Similarly, “Text From My Sister, June 2015” expresses how this loss that seems so singular is broader and encloses everyone who was connected with her mother.

Definitely have had lots of
sadness lately. The passenger
seatbelt in Dads car smells like
her. But the house is starting to
forget.

There are days when there is a hole in our lives that doesn’t seem like it will ever be full again. How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is not as tough to read as you’d expect. It’s funny, it’s witty, it’s sad, but it’s also content in the empty moments of life.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is a New York Times bestselling nonfiction writer and poet. She is the author of six books of poetry (including Dear Future Boyfriend, Hot Teen Slut, Working Class Represent, Oh, Terrible Youth andEverything is Everything) as well as the nonfiction books, the >Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, which made 7 National “Best Books of 2014″ lists (including Amazon, The Onion’s AV Club, NPR’s Science Fridays and the UK newspaper The Guardian, among others) and Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam, which Billy Collins wrote “leaves no doubt that the slam poetry scene has achieved legitimacy and taken its rightful place on the map of contemporary literature.” On the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) podcast Art Works, host Josephine Reed introduced Cristin as being “something of a legend in NYC’s slam poetry scene. She is lively, thoughtful, and approachable looking to engage the audience with her work and deeply committed to the community that art (in general) and slam poetry (in particular) can create.” Cristin’s most recent awards include the ArtsEdge Writer-In-Residency at the University of Pennsylvania (2010-2011), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (2011) and the Amy Clampitt Residency (2013). Her sixth book of poetry, The Year of No Mistakes, was released by Write Bloody Publishing in Fall 2013, and would go on to win the Writers’ League of Texas Book of the Year Award for Poetry (2013-2014). Her second book of nonfiction, Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, was released by Gotham Books (Penguin) in Fall 2014, debuted at #7 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Books about Health.

The Sweetest Ruin by Amy George

Source: publisher
Kindle, 150 pgs.
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The Sweetest Ruin by Amy George is a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen set in Sin City — Las Vegas, Nevada.  Yes, that sin city! William Darcy is a workaholic and his family is deeply concerned about his health. After his doctor orders him on bed rest, Darcy finds himself smothered by love and concern, and too much attention to his work habits. The walls are closing in on him, and he takes off for America.

There’s an old saying about Vegas: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!”

Unfortunately, how Darcy meets Elizabeth is not at all what readers will expect and what happens in Vegas will likely not stay in Vegas if he has anything to say about it. He’s fallen head over heels and he has to break it to his over-protective sister, Georgiana.

“There was no sound coming from England. No breathing, no thudding telephone. It was the quietest his sister had ever been.”

Darcy and Lizzy not only have to come to terms with their quick romance, but also how different their lives are from one another. Will secrets he’s keeping wear their thin connection away or will their love conquer all? Even his condescending and rude sister?

George’s novella shows a delightfully carefree Lizzy living in Nevada, and even though she’s lost much, she’s created her own family from the friends she encounters. Her support system is strong and fiercely protective, like Darcy’s sister. Despite a few editorial misses in the copy I had, the story was fast-paced and full of romance and humor. I particularly loved Thad and Damien and, of course, Lizzy and Darcy. There were a few things that were wrapped up rather quickly, probably because it is a novella, but I wish there had been a few hints dropped earlier about how Georgiana would come around to liking Lizzy.

The Sweetest Ruin by Amy George is delightful in its demonstration of how a workaholic can find the balance he needs with the woman he loves by his side.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Amy George is a middle-aged woman who got rid of her old lady/grown up and has since purchased an unreasonably small car. She refuses to listen to its radio at a reasonable volume, especially when the Beastie Boys or the Violent Femmes are playing. She lives in a small town in the Midwest where the bookstore and yarn shop are neighbors and most food is fried. Her household consists of a dog, a man, a hermit, and stubborn soap scum. She has been writing since she was a child and ran the Hyacinth Gardens, a popular but defunct JAFF site.

Fun fact: My birthday is January 30th so this is like a big birthday party.

Find her on Facebook, GoodReads, Meryton Press, and Twitter.

Giveaway:

8 eBooks of The Sweetest Ruin are being given away by Meryton Press and the giveaway is open to international readers.

Terms and conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once each day and by commenting daily on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached to this tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented.

Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international. Each entrant is eligible to win one eBook.

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GOOD LUCK, EVERYONE!

As Close As I Can by Toni Stern

Source: publicist
Paperback, 85 pgs.
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As Close As I Can by Toni Stern looks deeply into what it means to live, presenting the reader with both the good and bad. She begins her collection with “Hwy 154-Between Two Fires” to demonstrate the in between, first calling to mind the adage that “a man alone is in bad company” and juxtaposing it with “hell is other people.” This initial set up allows Stern to call acute attention to appearance of the now versus the individual reality of now.  Like the “towhee” that tweets a song that is enjoyable to the listener, who may find it beautiful, but the listener is unaware that she is a widowed bird longing for someone who has left this life.

Stern has a wry wit, which appears in a number of her poems. I loved the wit on display in “Pine Sol.” Each poem showcases how our life experiences shape us as people, and how not all of these experiences necessarily are good. The title poem speaks of a mother making room for her child in her full life, carving out a space for this young person whose name is like music.  From our first moments, we are given a name, and even just this name and its sounds will shape us.

As Close As I Can by Toni Stern is a collection of life’s beauty, the tarnished and the shiny.  There is life in between those moments that is lived, and those in-between moments are just as precious as the others that are burned into our memories.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Toni Stern enjoyed a highly productive collaboration with singer-songwriter Carole King. Stern wrote the lyrics for several of King’s songs of the late ’60s and early ’70s, most notably “It’s Too Late,” for the album Tapestry. The album has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, and received numerous industry awards.  In 2012, Tapestry was honored with inclusion in the National Recording Registry to be preserved by the Library of Congress; in 2013, King played “It’s Too Late” at the White House. That song and Stern’s “Where You Lead” feature in the Broadway hit Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  “Where You Lead” is also the theme song for the acclaimed television series Gilmore Girls.  Stern’s music has been recorded by numerous artists throughout the years.

As Close as I Can is her second volume of poetry.  She lives with her family in Santa Ynez, California.  Her website is https://www.tonistern.com.