Quantcast

Skin Memory by John Sibley Williams

Source: Poet
Paperback, 80 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Skin Memory by John Sibley Williams, winner of The Backwaters Press Prize for Poetry, is similar in theme to his other collection, As One Fire Consumes Another, in that there is an exploration of dark tragedy, lost identity, and more, but there are moments of hope and light — a common hopeful dream. “Because skin has a memory all its own and because memory is a language that’s survived its skin,” he says in the title poem drawing parallels between the memories and weights we carry through life with the greater memory we leave behind. He reminds us in “Then We Will Make Our Own Demons” that we tend to tie significance to moments in time that are not as earth shattering as we suspect them to be: “When your name is less an arrow/ … /instead it is a thread dissolving/into a forgotten wound. When all woulds/have hints of birds in them…/”

Williams explores the hurts and sadness of childhood, while speaking about how those moments shape us and our worlds when we internalize them, but how those moments often fade into the background becoming less significant. As the collection moves away from growing up into adulthood, Williams speaks about the moments in which we look back and realize our lives have taken turns we never expected.

In “Poison Oak,” there is the helplessness we all may feel some day, particularly when a child becomes ill and all we can do is rock them in our arms and hope they will recover. “I do know there’s a crying boy/the coarse cradle of my hands/cannot rock into immunity,” he says. But he also explores larger societal issues, like the loss of peers in a hail of bullets in “Killing Lesson.” These poems beg us to look at those “earth shattering” moments of our lives with greater perspective. To review our lives with an empathetic eye toward those around us, who may be carrying heavier burdens, having more tragedy than we ever could.

Skin Memory by John Sibley Williams is an amazing collection that tackles large themes while grounding each moment in real life. A harrowing collection that strives for peace and hope, a journey into the self and outside of it. We have a memory, and there’s a memory of life that surrounds us. When the skin of us is gone, where do those memories go, how do they live on? They live on in the words we share, the stories we tell, and the moments we cherish with others. Connection is the greatest gift of all.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

When Jane Got Angry by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: the author
Audible, 3+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

When Jane Got Angry by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, explores a “what if” scenario regarding Jane Bennet’s reaction to when she learns the Bingley’s have been in London and that Caroline has effectively kept Mr. Bingley in the dark about her presence in the city. This novella will have you on your toes for a bit, especially as Jane Bennet becomes a bit more daring like her sister, Lizzy, and seeks to “bump” into Mr. Bingley on the streets of London.

Kincaid’s Jane has a bit more backbone that Austen’s original, and I enjoyed her “light” scheming. She’s no where near the level of Caroline Bingley, but she does give her a run for her money. We also find a different Mr. Bingley in Kincaid’s work. He’s prone to being led about in Austen’s novel, but when he learns that people he loves have meddled with his happiness look out! Although there are breaks in social convention, there’s nothing overly outrageous — just a pushing of the boundary here and there.

Zimmerman is a fantastic narrator as always, and I never lost interest in the story with her narrative lead.

When Jane Got Angry by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a wonderful addition to Jane Austen-related fan fiction. My one complaint would probably be I wanted to know more of what Lizzy would have thought of Jane acting more like her. Wonderfully written and no loss ends. Kincaid has a talent for these kinds of “what if” stories.

RATING: Quatrain

Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner by Anna Claybourne

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 144 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner by Anna Claybourne is perfect for any kid who loves slime and grossness. From rodents and spiders to the uses of spit and the evolution of toilets, this book as it all.

My daughter loves these kinds of books, even if there are things in there that gross her out, like birds that make nests from their spit and then those empty nests are eaten by Southeast Asian people as a delicacy. She was thrilled when she could do an experiment of wiping her tongue dry before putting a potato chip on it — lo and behold, she couldn’t taste it!

There are also quizzes throughout to test what you’ve learned, as well as if you have any common sense. One of my daughter’s favorites was the much needed break of cuteness in the middle of the book.

Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner by Anna Claybourne can provide a couple hours of entertainment for a family, and we enjoyed seeing who got the right answers on the quizzes. We had a really gross time with this one, and we’re all in agreement that we won’t be eating spiders or bugs no matter how much protein they have compared to a burger.

RATING: Quatrain

The Broken God by Laura Roklicer

Source: the poet
Paperback, 89 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Broken God by Laura Roklicer is a slim, questioning collection in which trauma and broken pieces are picked up, rearranged, and reassembled into something hopeful and more beautiful. We all make mistakes and feel pain when we lose someone we love, even those who leave us that we know were no good for us. But like many of us, these poems speak to the root of the problem.

In “Cowards,” the narrator asks, “Can you even tell/the good from the bad?/We’re noble for the world,/cowards for ourselves.” (pg. 37) How many times do we speak for others without raising our own voices for our own selves? How many times do we offer advice to others that we don’t even listen to in our own lives?

From "Follow Me" (pg. 73)

Put some more make up on my soul,
Shape me into something my love wouldn't recognise.
Give me something my hatred won't laugh at.

This fear of advocating for ourselves leaves others to do it for us or no one at all to do it. Roklicer looks at these situations from multiple angles — a person who drinks and drinks, a person who molds into the life of another and loses it all — these are the broken gods. The broken people unable to pick themselves up and rearrange into better people. But all is not lost.

The Broken God by Laura Roklicer explores our turmoil — internal and external — as we search for something outside ourselves to make us feel complete. But what we need — the god we seek — is within us all. We only need to reach out and grab hold.

RATING: Tercet

About the Poet:

Laura Roklicer is a 23-year-old freelance writer, scriptwriter, lyricist and a filmmaker, whose educational background is in film production and psychology. She has worked with over a hundred artists worldwide and is a citizen of the world who doesn’t believe in borders that people put up (geographical or mental) and finds her thrill exploring different areas of the world, as well as exploring the cultural differences, individuality, and different worldviews.

She believes the true beauty of nature lays in those differences and the power of subjectivity. Laura is on a mission to contribute to the world change for the better and she hopes to do so through her writing and films. Please view the Book Teaser on Facebook.

View the guest post.

Buy the Book:

Other Possible Lives by Chrissy Kolaya

Source: the poet
Paperback, 80 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Other Possible Lives by Chrissy Kolaya is an exploration of what if — the nature of the other and what it must be to immerse ourselves in those “other” lives. Would they make us long for our own lives more and appreciate them with grace? Or would an exploration of those lives lead us to make drastic changes in our own? These are just some of the questions that underlie these scenarios, ranging from the troubled house sitters in the opening of the collection to the forlorn lover at the end who is bound to make the same error again.

From "How to Leave Behind" (pg. 15)

She said the way to do it was
to look at a photo of them.
Look at it until their faces
melt away into lines,
until words like brother fall away

and swirl around the shape that's left.
To focus on the mouth,
then the eyes,
then the arms and legs as if they all belonged
to different people.

Kolaya’s poems are rooted in the possible lives we could have and allows us to examine the truth of those lives and the truth in our own lives. Other Possible Lives by Chrissy Kolaya answers our “what if” questions but leaves us with so much more. There’s a greater insight here hearkening back to the adage “the grass is always greener on the other side’ at least from where you are viewing it.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Chrissy Kolaya is a poet and fiction writer, author of Charmed Particles: a novel and two books of poems: Any Anxious Body and Other Possible Lives (forthcoming fall 2019). Her work has been included in the anthologies New Sudden Fiction (Norton), Fiction on a Stick (Milkweed Editions), and Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems, as well as in a number of literary journals.

She has received a Norman Mailer Writers Colony summer scholarship, an Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies fellowship, a Loft Mentor Series Award in Poetry, and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Lake Region Arts Council, and the University of Minnesota. As one of the co-founders of the Prairie Gate Literary Festival, she worked to develop the literary arts community in rural western Minnesota. She now teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida.

The Guests on South Battery by Karen White

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 368 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Guests on South Battery (Tradd Street #5) by Karen White is another page turning mystery with Melanie and her husband, Jack Trenholm, on Tradd Street. Their twins are thriving and growing, but Melanie’s ability to communicate with the dead has been hibernating or intermittent at best. As a year has passed of maternity leave, Melanie is ready to return to her real estate work selling historic homes and more in Charleston.

A call in the middle of the night leaves Melanie questioning the quiet in her life and the possible return of ghosts. She and Jack seem to be on track as he works on a new book, but it is clear that they need more full-time help. A nanny just happens to fall into her lap when she returns to work.

Melanie reverts to her insecurities in this tale even as she strives to be a stronger woman and communicate with her husband. Jack also needs a bit of help in the communication department. While Melanie can be a frustrating character and this mystery is easy to resolve at least where the nanny is concerned, the tale is told in a sufficiently twisted way. The ghosts are malevolent and innocent here in a battle.

The Guests on South Battery (Tradd Street #5) by Karen White uncovers more family secrets that Melanie must deal with, and it is her maturity here that redeems Melanie a little bit. Readers will like the ghosts and mystery in this tale, but Melanie still has some growing up to do.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Karen White is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and currently writes what she refers to as ‘grit lit’—Southern women’s fiction—and has also expanded her horizons into writing a mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina. Karen hails from a long line of Southerners but spent most of her growing up years in London, England and is a graduate of the American School in London. When not writing, she spends her time reading, scrapbooking, playing piano, and avoiding cooking. She currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children, and two spoiled Havanese dogs.

Giveaway: Green Card & Other Essays by Áine Greaney

Source: the author
Paperback, 75 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Green Card & Other Essays by Áine Greaney is a look at the immigration experience from an Irish American. Although many cite economics as the main impetus for immigration, there are always secondary factors that push people to leave the countries where they were born. And many, even after many years of productive lives as Americans, still have that fear that they will be sent home where they no longer have a connection.

From “Introduction”:

“In the dream, my American venture has suddenly failed and now, I must repatriate to rural Ireland where, in middle age, I have no country and no money. The dream startles me awake. As I lie there staring at the ceiling fan above my bed, I wonder how many of us immigrants live with this persistent fear that one day, all that we have built and loved in America will disappear.”

While not an immigrant myself, I can see how this would be a major concern today and before today. Some of my immediate family are immigrants and struggled hard in their jobs to make ends meet. There many stories about their sacrifices — how my grandmother gave the meet to my father and his brother and ate next to nothing herself every evening. These are the stories of our country. The underlying darkness of these struggles is that not only are immigrants working hard, but they also face discrimination and bias at every turn. Whether its the passing comment about an accent or more blatant comments about their work ethic.

Greaney touches on all of these issues based on her own immigrant experience and her “ah-ha” moment when she realized she carries her own biases against other immigrants. But she also touches on how we all strive to hold up a mirror to the life we wish to have, rather than the reality of our lives. This is ever more pronounced in letters home from immigrants who focus on the moments of joy rather than the daily turmoil in factories, restaurants, etc., which are the main focus of their new lives in America. But all of this struggle is to have that dreamed of better life. Green Card & Other Essays by Áine Greaney is a must read — we need more of these voices to educate us about immigrant experiences to dissipate our false perceptions.

RATING: Cinquain

GIVEAWAY:

  • Comment with your own immigrant story or one from your family or books that stuck with you or changed your viewpoint below.
  • 2 winners will be selected to win a copy of this collection.
  • US Entrants Only
  • Deadline is Aug. 30, 2019 at 11:59 PM EST

Weird But True! USA

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 208 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Weird But True! USA from National Geographic Kids is a slim volume of unusual facts about many U.S. states and American history. What state has plastic pink flamingos as their state bird? Which state named their fog Karl? Did you know that there was a dog in WWI who could salute? Did you know Russian salad dressing was not invented in Russia and originally contained part of a sea creature? There’s a really cool gargoyle on the National Cathedral in D.C., which I never knew about! And oh, how I wish I had a time machine to go back and have the original Twinkie filled with banana cream!

My daughter and I read this book off and on over a few weeks. Her favorite facts naturally had to do with ice cream and cats. She also wants to check out whether money is magnetic or not. And there are bound to be some facts that you already know, particularly if you live in the D.C. area — many are well known.

Weird But True! USA from National Geographic Kids is part of a series of books that are always informative, fun, and engaging for the entire family. This fourth of July, why not brush up on some weird facts about our country.  You won’t be disappointed.

RATING: Cinquain

The Journey by Jan Hahn (audio)

Source: Meryton Press
Audible, 10+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Journey by Jan Hahn, narrated by Leena Emsley, places Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in the hands of road bandits who kidnap them for ransom as they make their way to London. In an effort to save Elizabeth from the rogues, Darcy proclaims that she is his wife, placing them in close quarters as they await rescue or a ransom payment. Elizabeth and Darcy try to come to an agreement about how to share a room, despite the impropriety of it all.

As you can imagine, there is danger from Nate Morgan and his bandits, but there is also danger in being so close to someone you admire and love. Darcy must fight his feelings as Elizabeth makes it clear that his character is not admirable, especially given Wickham’s tales. This adventure from Hahn is high in tension but there also is more intense emotional tension, as Elizabeth comes to know the real Darcy. She begins to admire him, but she also admonishes him when she feels he is arrogant or high-handed.

Without spoiling the adventure for readers, I will say that what happens after they are recovered is a bit ridiculous. Elizabeth Bennet’s reputation hangs in the balance, as does her family, but yet she makes the most awful choice. I fear given the societal norms at the time even Elizabeth would not have made the decision she does in the book. She would have felt the pressure and the love of her family and sisters most acutely. However, with that said, perhaps her PTSD from the situation made her act rashly and without practicality.

Hahn’s Darcy and Elizabeth are like opposites most of the journey, but once flipped, their attraction is undeniable. Emsley is a suitable narrator and she does the characters justice, enabling readers to tell them apart. There are instances where the Austen dialogue should have been shifted more away from canon to suit the story, but it didn’t detract much from my enjoyment.

The Journey by Jan Hahn, narrated by Leena Emsley, is a good adventure for our favorite couple with dashing rogues, danger, and time alone that will change their hearts.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Jan Hahn is fascinated by Jane Austen, 19th Century England, and true love. Having spent years in the world of business, she is now content to leave it behind and concentrate on writing about Austen’s characters finding true love in 19th Century England. A storyteller since childhood, she’s written skits and plays for local organizations and owned a business recording, writing and publishing oral histories. Jan is a member of JASNA and began writing novels based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 2002. Jan’s first novel, An Arranged Marriage, won the award for Best Indie book of 2011 from Austen Prose.

 

The Child by Jan Hahn (audio)

Source: Meryton Press
Audiobook, 8+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Child by Jan Hahn, narrated by Neil Roy McFarlane, imagines that Mr. Darcy is so heartbroken by Elizabeth Bennet’s rejection of his proposal at Hunsford that he drags Mr. Bingley on a European tour to forget about her. Upon his return, things have changed for the worse for the Bennet family and an illegitimate child has been born. He assumes that Elizabeth Bennet is the mother when he sees her on the streets of London with the child. It is this child that has driven a deep wedge between them, and Darcy must not only address Elizabeth’s assessment of his character, but also just how much, if at all, he had changed.

The narration was well done, and McFarlane was a convincing Darcy, as well as other characters. I loved that he brought a passion to Darcy’s inner thoughts. Something that is rarely seen or heard in other novels.

Told from Darcy’s point of view, we get an inside look at how heartbroken he was when he was rejected and how hard it is to see his unrequited love with a child that is not his own. He must learn to suppress his renewed desire for her, as he also strives to eliminate the blight on the Bennet family name. Unfortunately, in doing so, Darcy sinks to disguise (something he abhors) and in many ways falls below Elizabeth’s already scathing assessment of him. This was a bit tough to like, as was his sudden proposal at a time when his own reputation would be harmed. I do see how he was desperate, and those in love will do foolish things.

The Child by Jan Hahn, narrated by Neil Roy McFarlane, was a treat in terms of ingenuity on the part of the author and her rendering of the characters given the situation they found themselves in. Without giving too much away, Elizabeth and Darcy have even more obstacles to overcome, especially as Wickham plays a pivotal role in what could keep them apart forever.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Jan Hahn is fascinated by Jane Austen, 19th Century England, and true love. Having spent years in the world of business, she is now content to leave it behind and concentrate on writing about Austen’s characters finding true love in 19th Century England. A storyteller since childhood, she’s written skits and plays for local organizations and owned a business recording, writing and publishing oral histories. Jan is a member of JASNA and began writing novels based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 2002. Jan’s first novel, An Arranged Marriage, won the award for Best Indie book of 2011 from Austen Prose.

As One Fire Consumes Another by John Sibley Williams

Source: the poet
Paperback, 86 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

As One Fire Consumes Another by John Sibley Williams, winner of the 2018 Orison Poetry Prize, reminds readers that beneath the ash there is enough to rebuild life. Amidst the darkness present in a society tearing itself apart, there are flashes of hope within the flames. Even the cover with its words made of matchsticks is a prime example of the fuel that sets this book afire.

Sundogs (pg. 9)
            For Charlottesville

This isn't how I'm told halos work. 
Two mock suns lighting up the low
horizon, as if competing for grace-
giving, as if at war with each other.
The borders of their brief bodies
converging in one great arc flanking
then eclipsing the real. An imagined
architecture of virtue. A pure white
history. Torchlight flickers & feasts,
flickers & feasts, flickers & feasts. 
Whatever we think they stand for,
the old gods are toppling.

Williams’ words leap off the page just as many of the tragic events in our recent history have from the deaths of immigrant detainees to white power rallies. His collection seeks to tackle some of the biggest fractures in our nation, calling attention to the destruction of our country’s ideals and dreams. “You must have arrived here by/belief, too, searching for something/you could mistake for a life,” says the narrator of “the Detainee Is Granted One Wish.” (pg. 20) It only takes the flick of a match to set it all aflame. The country may seem large and strong, but these poems remind us that it can topple as easily as a house made of matchsticks.

In “No Island Is an Island, & So Forth” (pg. 26), Williams’ narrator reminds us that we cannot cast stones or pass judgment on others without first looking at our own history, our own lives. “When/writing your obituary, make sure to/leave some space for grandfather’s/casual racism.” The poem points to the follies of humanity and its obsession with want. The narrator asks that we look beyond our desires and see how the “want” devastates the world around us and look to be someone better.

As One Fire Consumes Another by John Sibley Williams is a collection that will consume you in fire — a passionate call for change. “My children are learning all wars/begin with belief.” (“Everests,” pg. 38) Let’s break the chain, let’s be better.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

John Sibley Williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize, 2019), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. He has also served as editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies, Alive at the Center (Ooligan Press, 2013) and Motionless from the Iron Bridge (barebones books, 2013). A nineteen-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Laux/Millar Prize, Wabash Prize, Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, The 46er Prize, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a teacher and literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: Yale Review, Midwest Quarterly, Southern Review, Colorado Review, Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Saranac Review, Atlanta Review, TriQuarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies.

Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown

Source: the author
Paperback, 190 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown is a collection of short stories set in Ireland with a cast of characters who are like little puzzles to solve. Their lives have not gone as planned and it is how they adapt (or don’t) to changes and bumps in the road that make them so puzzling. Brown also has adeptly created a collection of stories in which characters from one may be connected to those in another. Even as we follow these characters, readers come to realize that where they come from — a tiny village bypassed by progress — is slowly dying. This dying town weighs heavily on these stories and is a character who motivates Brown’s protagonists or forces them to take action.

From “The Lady on the Bridge”

“She felt the same keen nervousness reaching for her husband’s book as she did with the thought of the flooding.” (pg. 1)

“A dark cloud had spread in her chest but she didn’t know why.” (pg. 12)

Like “The Lady on the Bridge,” readers are swept away by the emotion of Brown’s stories — a woman whose husband has a gay lover, a man whose child dies, a brother who has become an anchor, a dyslexic man who seeks revenge on a former teacher, and so many more. Each character is larger than life, living big emotions and trying to bury them beneath the surface. These emotions can bubble to the surface at any time, and they often do. The narration lulls you into a trance as Brown navigates this small town and its cast of characters, but this trance is filled with tension, as she weaves her tales and surprises so seamlessly. The connections between the characters are not always obvious, and some are startling.

Much like the uneven gravel roads of small town Irish living, these characters must learn to cope with their loves, the bumps in the road, and the low hanging clouds obscuring their view. Readers will enjoy the different perspectives provided by some characters of the same person. It is true that you can never know everything about someone, even the ones you are most intimate with.

Masterfully crafted short stories with a multitude of perspectives about a dying town’s small-town life. Don’t miss out on Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown.

RATING: Cinquain