Category: Book Reviews

Book Reviews

A review of Seeing Through by Ricky Ian Gordon

Even in the midst of this plague and the terrible death of so many beautiful people, most of whom I had a crush on as a teenager, there is always humour and a sense of the creative transformation which makes this book a constant joy to read. Ricky’s descriptions are so apt, darkly funny and full of delicious gossip, you want to commit them to memory for re-use.

A review of Turn Up the Heat by Ruth Danon

Light and heat serve as central metaphors for comfort. They represent the warmth Danon so desperately craves as an antidote to the cold she fears. Her fear is deeply rooted in the uncertainty and anxiety that accompany illness and hospitalization.

A review of Small Altars by Justin Gardiner

While the reader gets a sense of the arc of Aaron Gardiner’s life, Small Altars is written in short, episodic passages, jumping back and forth in time, some describing family scenes, others expository discussions of medical conditions, from schizophrenia to various cancers, the elements of comic book composition (both “on the page” and in conception as character and plot), biographical descriptions of various historical personalities – Claude Debussy, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, Georges Remi among them – and more.

A review of Farhang Book One by Patrick Woodcock

Each poem is a work of art to be read and revisited time and again. Like a painting, the line length and shape of the poem can be continuously analysed and when we look at Woodcock’s work this way, we notice that even the most thematically brutal of poems can contain exquisitely beautiful images, full of nuance, subtlety and shade.

A review of A Fire at the Center by Karen Van Fossan

What Van Fossan delivers is life—a progress report on a directed but unfinished life, painfully acquainted with ambiguity and exquisitely cast in vibrant minimalist prose. Ultimately, the shadow of the book left in the reader’s mind is neither bound wrists nor angry fist but palms, unchastened, reverently touching.

A review of Flatback Sally Country by Rachel Custer

Using simple language, in a variety of poetic forms, Custer has created a powerful work that called out to me for compassion. I’ve heard Custer read from this collection and now, reading the entire book, I must say there is only one thing that could add to the beauty and impact of the work: performing the complete collection on stage as a choreographed play.

A review of Review of Pigeon House by Shilo Niziolek

Niziolek does not play safe with any of her stories; ‘The Fisherman’s Wife’, for example, at first appears like a folkloric tale told many times before, but Niziolek’s vengeful twist provides this tale with a squeeze of lemon. There is something gloriously satisfying and almost palate cleansing in the way Niziolek seeks to subvert her reader’s expectations.

A review of The Elk in the Glade and Good Housekeeping by Bruce E. Whitacre

Storytelling itself is also a kind of good housekeeping, an ordering of the random elements of life into story, to assert our place in the world. Whitacre is a storyteller, someone who sees the narrative threads that connect us, binding our lives not only to our immediate family, but our farthest neighbors and the planet we all have in common. Both these collections bask in those connections and in the subtleties of a good poetic ear.

A review of Fat Chance by Kent MacCarter

The mingling of an unlikely, extraordinary outcome with ordinary beginnings forces our assumptions into a stark light. This doesn’t only happen semantically. It is also in the conjunction between different types of media, textual, rhythmic and visual – with source texts like newspaper clippings, medical case studies, and historical cast-off images woven into a story that melds chance, proximity, and banality into a cohesive poetics that is unsettling and oddly moving. 

A review of The Galloping Horse by Petra White

The Galloping Horse encourages an exploration of complex emotions and experiences, offering a way to process the more challenging aspects of life with a deep authenticity combined with skilful use of language and the ability to resonate with the reader on a deep level especially with melancholic subject matter.