Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede

Source: Purchased
Kindle, 288 pgs.
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Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede, which was our July book club pick, is a retelling of a fairy tale.  In this rendition, the tale is set in England, and the characters are a bit modified.  Wrede says in the afterword that the original fairy tale had gaps and characters appeared and disappeared, leaving their motivations out of sight for the most part.  Here, Wrede contrives to make motivations fit the story, which mirrors the original very closely.

The language used here to mimic Elizabethan times but, in so doing, the dialogue was very stilted and hard to engage with for a good portion of the book.  While the language may have been to authenticate the time period, some of it was off in terms of usage and slowed the pace of the tale considerably.  However, her use of John Dee and Edward Kelly as the wizards in the town of Mortlak, who cause harm to the world of Faerie, was inspired, though even just Kelly would have been enough here.

Rosamund (Rose Red) and Blanche (Snow White) are the daughters of the Widow Arden (forest) who live on the outskirts of town near the land of Faerie, and while they tend to stay outside the forest and only use the herbs found within its borders for good, they have skills that other townsfolk only speculate about.  It is there in the woods that they find all manner of plants, including elecampane, which is native to central Asia.  Is this the work of the fay?  Or a miscalculation on Wrede’s part?  It’s unclear.

Wrede also relies on the continuation of “work” over several dayson more than one occasion without going into depth about the failed experiments, etc. This also slows the pace of the fairy tale down.  Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede is a satisfactory retelling of a well-known fairy tale, but what is unclear still is the motivations of one set of evildoers — the fay.  While the mortals clearly seek fame and fortune in their magic renderings, the fay involved in the spell-casting seem to have muddy reasoning for their part in it.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Patricia C. Wrede was born in Chicago, Ill., and is the eldest of five children. She started writing in seventh grade. She attended Carleton College in Minnesota, where she majored in Biology and managed to avoid taking any English courses at all. She began work on her first novel, Shadow Magic, just after graduating from college in 1974. Patricia received her M.B.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1977.  Patricia finished her first novel in late 1978, and she has since published 12 books.

Ergon by George HS Singer

Source: George HS Singer
Paperback, 86 pgs.
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Ergon by George HS Singer, who is on tour this fall with Poetic Book Tours, is a debut with subtle power.  The collection is broken down into four sections — Visiting, Ergon, Our Quotidian, and Immensity — and each reveals a keen observer in Singer and each is infused with Buddhist sensibilities, but not overtly so.  In “Slipping Out,” Singer draws lines of connection between the Korean lady on the freeway and ourselves, as well as the bits of ourselves we find behind the eyes of our children. But there is so much more being said in this poem – we must savor our moments of connection because they could slip away before we realize it.

From “Slipping Out” (pg. 15-16)

But don’t be so sure the bell
won’t crack and the mind slip out
to meet itself in another’s face.

In this first section of poems, the lines call to mind the section title. We’re just visiting, our time is limited here and in these moments we have, and we must make the most of them while we can. For those moments we wish did not happen as they do, we can be comforted by their transient nature. We must learn to let go of the harmful memories and events and cherish those that imbue us with strength.

Throughout the collection, there are poems that recall wars and battles of the past, which can affect people and shape who they are. How do we deal with these changes? How do they? These are questions that only individuals can answer for themselves, and they must accept the choices they have made. Singer uses nature to illustrate his themes, including the movement of tides.

In the title poem, “Ergon”, the narrator concludes, “The ergon of strangeness in a household is silence.” The line is haunting and makes us wonder what exactly is strangeness? Is it the memories we do not vocalize, the traumas that we bury? Those are not really strange, but many often feel that they are set apart because of them. To stay silent is to deny the truth. It is these events that shape us and those around us, and they should also be what connects us and draws us closer to one another.

Ergon by George HS Singer is a collection that will push readers to think about their lives, their place in it, and those who have influenced them. Those who have inspired us, and those we have feared — all have left their indelible mark.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

George HS Singer, a former Zen Buddhist monk and student of Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett, lives with his wife of forty-two years in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he works as a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara. He was educated at Yale, Southern Oregon University, and the University of Oregon. He wrote poetry in college but took a twenty-year break before taking it up as a regular discipline. He has been a long term student of Molly Peacock and has had the opportunity to work with other marvelous poets through the Frost Place in Franconia, N.H. He writes about life in and out of a Zen monastery, trying to live mindfully in a busy and troubled world, his love of nature and of his wife. The arts have become more central to his life. Singer’s poems were published in the Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry

The Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff

tlc tour hostSource: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 416 pgs.
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Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff is an epic debut in the historical fiction genre in which both strong women — Lady Katherine Trenowyth and Anna Trenowyth — are challenged. Katherine, a budding artist, bucks societal expectations to follow her heart, but her actions have ramifications. Nurse Anna closes herself off from others following a tragic sinking of a ship and deaths that rock her world. These women choose hard, lonely paths, but their strength carries them through the good and bad. While Katherine knows when to accept help, Anna must learn this lesson on her own, which can be tough during a WWII when many things are uncertain and tragedy can strike at any moment.

Panicked like a wild thing caught and frozen by the hunter’s lamp. (pg. 293 ARC)

As Rickloff shifts between the points of view and the time periods, readers may expect to lose their place in these stories, but she does such a wonderful job integrating them, readers are bound to fall in love with both characters. Although we may want the best for them, the realities of war and circumstance will intervene. When Anna shows up to tend to the patients at Nanreath Hall, an ancestral home she’s never seen, her curiosity takes over, forcing her to uncover the secrets of her mother, where she comes from, and the family she never knew as a child.

Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff is a carefully woven tapestry of generations of Trenowyths, whose lives are upended by the decisions they make, the passions they follow, and the wars they cannot control. This is historical fiction at its best with elements of romance, artistry, romance, and mystery. Get swept away by the mysterious ruins of lives past and learn to make a new path from the old.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Alix Rickloff is a critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance. Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series (Kensington, 2009), the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy (Pocket, 2011), and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series (Pocket, 2014). She lives in Chestertown, Maryland, with her husband and three children.  Find out more about Alix at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her on Pinterest.

Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 46 pgs.
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***I consider Sweta a friend and her book is on tour with Poetic Book Tours.***

Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is highly emotional and raw.  It is clear that her mother’s sudden passing left a void in her life, and she was adrift with anger, despair, and confusion.  She spent time with family in India, people who she viewed as vampires (sucking the life from those around them for gossip), but respected her mother enough not to say anything.  There is a delicate balance in grief — when we want to cry out and shout out despair, we must be respectful that others are grieving in their own way as well.  At the same time, there are those who continue to lack compassion or empathy, making the grieving process even more difficult.

This collection made me cry on more than one occasion as I thought about those who have left my life — some suddenly, some after long illness — and each time the grieving process was different and difficult. My nana passed at a critical time in my life as a college student, and I carried a lot of guilt about her passing before I could make it to the hospital to see her after my classes. I procrastinated that day, wanting to eat dinner and rest after a trying week of classes and wanting to avoid the sadness of seeing her with tubes everywhere in an ICU where germs were kept at bay as much as possible. When I arrived just after she left this world, I was tormented by guilt. I wanted to know why she left before I got there. Sweta’s poem, “Why Didn’t You Wait for Me?” struck a chord. Can they see us after they have passed? Can they send us signs? I think it’s possible, and whenever I see a ladybug, I think of her.

From: JFK: Terminal 4 Airport Lounge (pg. 4)

At first I try to hide the fact,
but any passerby could look inside me
and tell it was fake calm that I was drinking
at the airport lounge in a wine glass.
But, inside that one glass,
I could become invisible.
Inside one sip of wine,
I could whisper my fears.

Like love, grief is an emotion that bonds us. Through these poems and mini essays, Vikram show us the entire grieving process and how it tears us down so we can rebuild ourselves. Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a tribute to a wonderful woman, who may have lived differently than her daughter, and while it comes after her passing, it signals to us to cherish those we have. We need to pay closer attention to our now and less to the past. We need to be better about showing our appreciation in the now, rather than when it is too late.

RATING: Quatrain

Other reviews:

Guest Posts and Interviews:

About the Poet:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning writer, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Amazon bestselling author of 11 books, writing coach, columnist, marketing consultant, and wellness practitioner who currently lives in New York City. A graduate of Columbia University, she also teaches the power of yoga, Ayurveda, & mindful living to female trauma survivors, creative types, entrepreneurs, and business professionals. Sweta is also the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife, which helps you attain your goals by elevating your creativity & productivity while paying attention to your wellness.

United States of Books: Independence Day by Richard Ford (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 17 CDs
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Entertainment Weekly said, “The second of four books to feature Frank Basscombe, a sportswriter-turned-Realtor who’s the perfect sarcastic resident of that great big suburb called New Jersey.”

Independence Day by Richard Ford, narrated by Richard Poe, is one of those novels in which readers can be frustrated, as the main character, Frank Basscombe, often scurries along tangents just when the narration appears to be going somewhere relevant.  Poe does a good job of narrating this character.  He’s a divorced man who lives alone in his former wife’s house in Haddam, N.J., and he’s entered the real-estate game.  He barely sees his children, still wants to hang onto his newly married ex-wife, but also says that he loves his girlfriend.

Basscombe tells the truth as he sees it in that moment, but from moment-to-moment that truth can change.  He’s not steady in his beliefs, and much of that is because he’s clearly in the midst of a crisis.  He’s unsure of his own direction and his own place in life and in his family.  On a trip with his son to the Basketball and Baseball Halls of Fame, Basscombe makes a concerted effort to be someone to at least one somebody — his son.  However, like him, his son is going through a period of unease, as he’s unsure how to be and act, and he’s trying on different hats — some of which raise concern with his mother about his mental stability.

In many ways, Basscombe and his son’s inability to stand firm and find their own peace in the world mirror the wishy-washy perception of New Jersey — which ET calls a suburb.  The view of New Jersey can be its industrial gas and oil farms or the fact that it is the neighbor of New York, a place where those who work in the city come to escape the fast-paced life and find some green.

It’s hard to believe that there are four books about this character, given his disinterest and disdain for everything.  Independence Day by Richard Ford, narrated by Richard Poe, is one man’s search for a final independence — he’s looking to free himself from the ties that bind him to his ex-wife, trying to carve out a new career, and to find some direction for his own life without being hampered by the past.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Richard Ford is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist and short story writer. His best-known works are the novel The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day and The Lay of the Land, and the short story collection Rock Springs, which contains several widely anthologized stories.





USbooks New Jersey

Prince Noah and the School Pirates by Silke Schnee, illustrated by Heike Sistig

Source: Plough Publishing House
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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Prince Noah and the School Pirates by Silke Schnee, illustrated by Heike Sistig, is a fun adventure about inclusion, working together, and having fun. In Prince Noah’s kingdom, the kids are sent off in separate ships to learn skills, such as girls learning to weave and boys learning to fence. Kids with disabilities are sent off in their own boats as well.

While the book has a lot of text for young kids, the adventure makes it a book to read with your child right before bed. You can break up the book into segments, making it easier for kids to follow along and enjoy the ride. When the kids are at sea, pirates swoop in and capture the children. What will happen to them as they are put into the pirate tower? Who will save them?

Prince Noah and the School Pirates by Silke Schnee, illustrated by Heike Sistig, is delightfully illustrated with so many things to look at; it’s almost like a Where’s Waldo? book.  My daughter enjoyed this story and told me we should read it again, and we probably will … many times.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Silke snow is a journalist and works as a TV program maker at a public broadcaster in Cologne . She is married and has three sons . Her youngest son Noah was born in July 2008 with Trisomy 21 ( Down syndrome ) .

“At first, when Noah was born, we were shocked and sad. And it wasn’t easy to see how some people look at children with special needs as strange or different. But the catalyst for this book was witnessing the effect he had on many people, despite being categorized as disabled. In fact, our little prince brings much love, joy, and sunshine not only to us, but to all around him. Children are a wonder, and we must see them with the eyes of our heart: each child just the way he or she is.”

Denial of Conscience by Cat Gardiner

Source: Giveaway win from JAFF Event
Paperback, 347 pgs.
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Denial of Conscience by Cat Gardiner is a hot, modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. Gardiner writes steamy romance really well, and the fire crackles between this Darcy and Elizabeth like a gunpowder trail to a pile of dynamite. Set in Virginia and Asheville, N.C., it was the perfect getaway novel for vacation, especially since we would be in the same area at the Biltmore estate! Gardiner knows the area well enough to write about the former plantations in a way that makes it believable that Darcy of Pemberley would be a wealthy landowner whose past has pushed him into the military and the world of black ops, while Lizzy has remained at Longbourn beneath the guilt of her mother’s exit from their lives.

Unlike Jane who left the home shortly after Mrs. Bennet to seek freedom, Lizzy stayed behind to care for their father and the repairs of an aging estate. Despite working for the Department of Defense, they are unable to keep up with the costs of the repairs, and without intervention soon, they’ll have to sell off some acreage to keep afloat. While Lizzy is forced to decide between her freedom and saving the ancestral home, her father has other ideas about how to save the place — and these ideas get them both into deep trouble.

“‘Carinatus? In English, Darcy. Our Latin is restricted to the dance floor here.’
‘It’s a snake, Medusa, like the ones writhing on your head.’ Darcy smirked.
‘Screw you.’
‘We tried that; it didn’t work. Remember?'” (pg. 28)

Darcy has become a hardened man since the death of his parents and his Iceman persona keeps him safe from emotional entanglements as his work takes him all over the world assassinating evildoers. He’s turned into a leather wearing, tattooed biker in Gardiner’s modern tale, and he’s hotter than ever. He oozes charm and danger, something that draws Lizzy in, revealing a woman who wants to be free to pursue her passions and take on new adventures. Both emerge from their chrysalises renewed and engaged with life. There’s no going back, and those who want to stop them from being together better look out.

Denial of Conscience by Cat Gardiner explores how people fall in love and why, how that relationship can encourage each partner to grow, and how mutual respect can spur them to greater things. Living a happier and fuller life is something we all should aspire to, and while assassinating evildoers might make the world a safer place, its toll can be devastating. Living for others and denying oneself even the simplest pleasures can also be draining. Gardiner explores all of these themes and more in her novel. This one is hot, hot, hot!

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

Guest Posts:

***Cat Gardiner’s new WWII romance, A Moment Forever, is touring with Poetic Book Tours.***

About the Author:

Born and bred in New York City, Cat Gardiner is a girl in love with the romance of an era once known as the Silent Generation, now referred to as the Greatest Generation. A member of the National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and Tampa Area Romance Authors, she and her husband adore exploring the 1940s Home Front experience as living historians, wishing for a time machine to transport them back seventy years.

She loves to pull out her vintage frocks and attend U.S.O dances, swing clubs, and re-enactment camps as part of her research, believing that everyone should have an understanding of The 1940s Experience™. Inspired by those everyday young adults who changed the fate of the world, she writes about them, taking the reader on a romantic journey. Cat’s WWII-era novels always begin in her beloved Big Apple and surround you with the sights and sounds of a generation.

She is also the author of four Jane Austen-inspired contemporary novels, however, her greatest love is writing 20th Century Historical Fiction, WWII-era Romance. A Moment Forever is her debut novel in that genre.

For more on her book, visit A Moment Forever.

Follow her on Twitter
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The Arranged Marriage by Jehanne Dubrow

Source: Gift
Paperback, 57 pgs.
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The Arranged Marriage by Jehanne Dubrow reads like mini-memoirs of marriages on the rocks, marriages marred by abuse, marriages that require covering up.  These arrangements are made consciously and sometimes with little say by the women engaged in them.  Much of the truth about these women is concealed, but even that concealer is thin and, in many cases, see-through.

“Wait long enough and anything takes on a
sheen of sharpness. Mustn’t leave her hands
untied. She could stare the whorl from
fingertips. Cut him with her eyes.” (from “All the Sharp Things”, pg. 7)

In “The Handbag,” the speaker examines the contents of a wife’s purse at the back of the closet and how it hides things from her husband.  She leaves to buy groceries, and while her husband may control what is purchased, there are so many possibilities outside that she can take advantage of if she so chooses.  Does this woman choose to go to the police station?  Does she read and improve her mind away from her husband? The possibilities are endless.

In “House of the Small Dictatorship”, cigars are clipped, pages of a newspaper are opened, and many other things get done without the husband lifting a finger. But the woman’s efforts are rarely mentioned. In “Domesticated Fowl of the Sula Valley”, birds fly away and the girls are given little explanation. Dubrow uses this poem to shed light on many of the missing girls and women and how their fates are never known. Even as these compact poems resemble the cloistered lives of these women — some controlled by their spouses — they also espouse a sense of hope in between the lines.  A freedom they can see but that they will need the courage to take ahold of it.

The Arranged Marriage by Jehanne Dubrow is harrowing and sad. The poems leave an indelible mark on the reader, and her verse is chock full of imagery that surprises. Many of these poems will be long remembered, a lasting testament to the women who have suffered — many in silence.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Jehanne Dubrow is the author of five poetry collections, including most recently The Arranged Marriage (University of New Mexico Press, 2015), Red Army Red (Northwestern University Press, 2012) and Stateside (Northwestern University Press, 2010). She co-edited The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems about Perfume (Literary House Press, 2014) and the forthcoming Still Life with Poem: Contemporary Natures Mortes in Verse (Literary House Press, 2016). Dots & Dashes, her sixth book of poems, won the 2016 Crab Orchard Review Series in Poetry Open Competition Awards and will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2017.

In Remembrance of the Life by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Source: Jane Rosenberg LaForge
Paperback, 44 pgs.
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In Remembrance of the Life by Jane Rosenberg LaForge is a chapbook of elegiac poems. While many deal with tough subjects from death to illness and loss, LaForge cautions that these things are inevitable and to deal with them is universal and part of the human condition. However, these moments should not stop us from living; they are a cause for reflection and transformation.

In “Ode to the Homeopathic” (pg. 1), the speaker talks about the awe of believing in lost cures for what ails you, but also warns how quickly those hopes can be dashed “as sickness moved from mass/to liquid…” Beauty is held as a virtue because it is created from something pure, unlike jealousy and other emotions that are reactive and cultivated in certain climates by actions of others and ourselves.

In “My Mother’s Skin” (pg. 5-6), the speaker wonders aloud at the state of skin and how it comes to get the look it does. Is it from illnesses, abuse, or just the simple process of aging. “I cannot write/about the pattern until I master it/” the speaker says. Discovering the pattern of a life can be difficult from the outside, and even as doctors argue “about what to put on the death certificate/”, readers are left wondering why must we pin down that pattern.

Many of LaForge’s poems require careful attention and could require readers to take second and even third looks, but this does not mean the poems are hard to understand. They are in fact packed fully with imagery and meaning that are interconnected to provide readers an overall sense of the inevitability of death. We should not focus on the end result, however, but on how we have lived and how others have lived — savoring each moment and memory.

“The past is never so long ago/that it cannot be refined … ” (from “I Learned It From a Mormon Girl” (pg. 10)

It also asks the question about medical intervention and whether it is for the patient or ourselves that we prolong lives with tubes and wires? “My father said a lot of things,/like how death took much longer when he/ was a child, not so many tubes in the patient/as the hospital floor covered in trunk lines,/more for show than purpose.” (from “How It Works For Others” pg. 21-22) In Remembrance of the Life by Jane Rosenberg LaForge is a slim and powerful collection remembering life in all its beautiful confusion and ugliness.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

With Apologies to Mick Jagger, Other Gods, and All Women

About the Poet:

Jane Rosenberg LaForge’s poetry, fiction, critical, and personal essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry Quarterly, Wilderness House Literary Review, Ottawa Arts Review, Boston Literary Magazine, THRUSH, Ne’er-Do-Well Literary Magazine, and The Western Journal of Black Studies. Her memoir-fantasy, An Unsuitable Princess, is available from Jaded Ibis Press. Her full-length collection of poetry, With Apologies to Mick Jagger, Other Gods, and All Women was published in fall 2012 by The Aldrich Press. She is also the author of the chapbooks After Voices, published by Burning River of Cleveland in 2009, and Half-Life, from Big Table Publishing of Boston in 2010. She is a poet and writer living in New York.

Follow her on Twitter: @JaneRLaForge. And see her author page on Facebook.

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

Source: Audible/Gift from Friend
Audiobook, 13+ hours;
Hardcover, 448 pgs.
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Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes is the second in a series of books about Joe Goldberg, a serial killer who is no stranger to love, obsession, and death.  If you haven’t read You, you need to because without reading it, you miss way too much.  I read this in hardcover and listened to the audio — the narrator of the audio, Santino Fontana, owns the role of Joe Goldberg and that of Forty.

***Spoilers for previous book***

Goldberg loves books and considers himself a writer, and after killing his latest girlfriend, he finds himself in love with a new girl who loves books and is eager to play games, like he is.  However, when Amy, who met him through a fake credit card, screws him over, Joe has little choice but to leave his bookstore managerial post in New York to head out to California to take care of her.  Along the way he gets sucked into the California dream of fame and fortune and finds himself opening social media accounts, something he would never have done in New York.

He meets Love and falls in love, but she has a twin named Forty who sucks the life out of everything with his addictions and his tantrums. Then, there is Milo, the third twin. At the same time he’s living the high life, he sees Amy and tries to catch her and fails and gets tangled up with a star-struck actress wannabe. His tangled web nearly unravels several times, as the story gets more twisted up and the body count rises. Readers will want to check reality at the door, you just have to go along for the ride.

Written and Directed by Joe Goldberg
Love is laughing and clapping and I hug Forty and shake his hand and thank him but he tells me not to thank him. ‘This was all you, Old Sport!'”

Joe is a character you love to hate.  He is creepy, calculating, and scary, but he’s also logical and rational and makes you want to believe he’s doing the right thing and helping the larger world. Kepnes’ story is twisted and crazy, but there is some great humor in these encounters, particularly when Joe corners police officer Robin Fincher who has his own Rolodex of celebrity encounters. Joe is in a city where everyone is obsessive.

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes makes readers wonder just how many obsessive and self-obsessed people are in the world and how on Earth people like Joe don’t kill more of them for us. Joe has evolved — somewhat — in this book, but don’t expect him to become a Boy Scout or a hero.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Caroline Kepnes is the author of You and Hidden Bodies. She splits her time between Los Angeles, California and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Find her on Facebook.

The Diary of Emily Dickinson by Jamie Fuller

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 224 pgs.
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The Diary of Emily Dickinson by Jamie Fuller is an ambitious project that recreates the life of Emily Dickinson, a hermetic poet from Amherst, with her poetry and from the letters that remain from her life.  Fuller has done her research, which is clear from the annotations that accompany poems and diary entries.  But what’s disappointing is that Fuller’s diary entries — while they mirror Dickinson’s style — do little to extrapolate from the letters or poems to create something new.  Readers will want a fictionalized Emily to be more revealing, not more obscure than what she left behind.

“A captured bird mutes its tune.” (pg. 95)

There are gems in some of the diary entries that allude to Emily’s views on marriage and how it would interfere with her poetic work.  She has been called to write poetry, and while she does household chores, she clearly had greater leeway with her family than she would with a husband or children of her own.  In this way, Fuller has called attention to an age-old problem many women face when they marry — how do you balance the expectations of being a wife and mother with your own dreams and desires.  This would be particularly difficult in Emily’s time.

The prologue is the most creative bit about the book in which Fuller describes the how the diary came to be saved when so many letters were burned by Emily’s sister.  After reading through the poems you remember, you wonder what do the diary entries add.  Unfortunately, they add very little and leave readers wondering if they should have spent their time reading her poems, creating their own narratives for Emily alongside what facts are available from the letters that have survived.

The Diary of Emily Dickinson by Jamie Fuller had potential, and while readers know that Emily was a hermit for much of her life and lived with her family and her poetry, Fuller has not taken the creative leap to bring us into the mind of a poet.  The novel feels flat and two-dimensional.  The saving graces here are Emily’s own poems and the annotations from letters and facts discovered in the historical record.

RATING: Couplet







Make Your Own Zoo by Tracey Radford

Source: Cico Books
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Make Your Own Zoo: 35 Projects for Kids Using Everyday Cardboard Packaging by Tracey Radford helps parents and kids turn recyclable materials into fun jungle animals and habitats.  My daughter had a babysitter, Anna‘s daughter, for a week, and they attempted to do more of these than the sad-looking lion that she and I did before or the unfinished animal she started with daddy.


Our sad lion, who is apparently missing his tail.

When my daughter and the girl were working on their projects, we discovered that I somehow missed a step…I forgot to cut out the templates for the lion parts that are included in the back of the book. So the poor looking parts are my poor drawing skills at work. They decided not to cut out the templates either, but their stuff looks better than mine — probably because my daughter used some old stencils my parents gave her from my attic savings at their house.


Hard a work on their own version of a jellyfish

Trying to make her own animal.

Trying to make her own animal.

You need the templates unless you’re more confident in your drawing skills, glue, scissors, paint, pens, cardboard tubes, egg cartons (cardboard and Styrofoam), old newspaper, and cereal boxes. Animals range from giraffes to parrots, and you can made ice floes, tree houses, and more.

Their giraffe without paint

Their giraffe without paint

The girl's jellyfish in water.

The girl’s jellyfish in water.

Make Your Own Zoo: 35 Projects for Kids Using Everyday Cardboard Packaging by Tracey Radford is an adaptable book that can be used by all ages to create animals and fun dioramas on a rainy afternoon. Some of the directions are a bit complicated for the age 5 group, but with a little help, they can have fun putting these animals together. Make it a group activity and see their creativity become unleashed.

RATING: Quatrain