All posts filed under: Reviews

Book review of “Morning After You” by Carmelo Militano

gillian harding-russell a review of Morning After You By Carmelo Militano Ekstasis Editions (2014) ISBN 978-177-10343 Carmelo Militano writes from the perspective of an immigrant to Canada from Calabria, Italy whose landscape shares some similarities to the prairies in summer but provides more of a contrast in winter. As well as the freshness inherent in being a foreigner, Militano’s eye for detail and his imagist approach work together with a fondness for unexpected angles and surrealistic effects. Frequent allusions to English literature combined with homely images from his native Calabria weave irony and a layer of suggestion, and lend sophistication and a European homeliness to classical effect. Whereas in“ The Atlas” Militano uses a metaphysical conceit in the manner of Donne’s iconic image in “The Compass,” in “Bus stop, Main and Logan,” the poet builds the poem on an allusion to Ezra Pound’s “In a station of the metro.” Meanwhile, in “Winnipeg Noir,” a piling and patchwork of literary allusions is reminiscent of T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” Altogether there is a natural grace and …

Book review of “The New World” by Andrew Motion

Nikki Celis A review of The New World By Andrew Motion The Crown Publishing Group ISBN 978-0-8041-3845-1 “Pride, I suppose. Stubbornness. Greed. Some defect in myself, which proves I am my father’s son and also the son of Adam.” – Jim Hawkins, in Motion, Andrew. The New World. New York: Crown Publishers, 2015. Print. Greed, a concept so familial with the psyche, is something that yearns to be satiated through our actions, whether it is to the benefit of others or not. It is thus both destructive and rewarding. This serves as the foundation and the driving force of Andrew Motion’s novel The New World, sequel to Silver (2012)—both serving as a follow-up to Robert Louis Stevenson’s literary classic, Treasure Island (1883). Although The New World serves as the second book in the series, it works well as a standalone novel. Any reminders of Silver and Treasure Island were dispatched within the first few (short) chapters, save for Jim Hawkins Jr. and his un-reciprocating and wholly singular love interest, Natty Silver—descendants of Jim Hawkins and …

Book review of “Verge” by Lynda Monahan

gillian harding-russell A review of Verge By Lynda Monahan Guernica (2015) ISBN 978-1-55071-963-5 In Verge, Monahan writes slender verses that carry a MacEwenesque self-discovery and wisdom. Just as MacEwen associated with ‘magic animals’ and talismans as an extension of her Jungian-conceived consciousness, so Monahan identifies with the fox figure in a series of “verges” or prayers that run through the collection. The term “verge” indicates some brink of discovery through pain—as on the verge of tears—or experience, which Monahan often conceives as a physical landscape. Interspersed with these verges, Monahan writes about family members in terse verses where small details evoke whole lives. Although these intermittent prayers dubbed “verges” supply the title for the poetry collection as a whole, the word “verge” appears in “verge 8,” which I will call the ‘title verge’ for this reason. Here the poetic phrasing once again recalls MacEwen’s finely chiselled, sparse verses: I am on the verge of some understanding some thing I am meant to know (102) “Dark Pines under Water” with its Jungian depths of consciousness comes …

Book Review of “The Vacationers” by Emma Straub

Lisa Deane a review of: The Vacationers By Emma Straub Riverhead Books ISBN 978-159463157 Gistnopsis: Middle-aged married couple Franny and Jim, 28-year-old Bobby, and 18-year-old Sylvia, along with Franny’s best friend, Charles, his husband, Lawrence, and Bobby’s unwelcome over-40 girlfriend, Carmen—vacation in Majorca for two weeks. Despite their enviable display of plenty during an economic recession, the leisurely literary fiction plot is driven by vividly realistic relationship tensions. Like any group, not everyone is looking forward to spending time together: Sylvia wrestles with being a teen in the 21st century, Jim and Franny arrive at their thirty-fifth anniversary in anguish, Charles and Lawrence battle insecurity while soothing baby fever, and Bobby and Carmen discover the perils of lukewarm “love.” Impressions: This novel lifted my mood on an emotionally gloomy weekend and elicited multiple, genuine bouts of laughter within the first 100 pages. I came across The Vacationers on a top ten list of books to read this summer, so naturally I snubbed it. But when I took a spontaneous family weekend getaway myself, I downloaded …

Book Review of Aaron Cully Drake’s “Do You Think This Is Strange?”

Shelley McAneeley a review of: Do You Think This is Strange? Aaron Cully Drake Brindle and Glass Publishing ISBN 978-1-927366-387   Having just completed my usual morning talk with my aged mother, I notice that I panic, and mentally search for meaning during the conversation with her.  I hope to respond at the right moment, which requires knowing what we are talking about. I think I am listening, I try to listen, but I am often challenged to even know what the topic is. It seems to be skipped over, assumed perhaps, and I have to solve the puzzle quickly before the test question comes. Are you listening? What are you thinking about? I wonder if the conversation includes me, as she will often hang up mid-sentence. I wonder if the difficulty arises from age, or if communicating has always been this way, and I chose to ignore the problem? I wonder if youth has its own focus and finds most conversations irrelevant enough to ignore. But here, too, is Freddy’s problem. Drake’s plot focuses on the …

Book Review of “Hastings-Sunrise” by Bren Simmers

Bren Simmers, Hastings-Sunrise Friday night at Hastings Park. Our beer in plastic cups. Pre-race, the announcer tells us to look for a big ass, a line of muscle along the abs as horses bounce and prance past patio tables, retirees with circled stats, hipsters in fedoras, weekend warriors, families and first-timers craving novelty. The regulars drink inside, beer rings stamped on betting slips. Bred for impulse, live-feed TVs. Minutes till the starting gun, exam hush as their pencils wager cubicle earnings against Luck of the Devil. A flurry of hunches before crack. Cramped on their saddles, Jockeys jack-in-the-box. Horses try to outrun whips. Call it sport or 9 to 5 odds I can’t watch. Close my eyes. A wall of noise at the finish line. Squamish, British Columbia poet Bren Simmers adds her voice to the poetic geography of Vancouver through her second poetry collection, Hastings-Sunrise (Gibsons BC: Nightwood Editions, 2015). Every time another poetry collection on and around Vancouver social geographies emerges, I’m amazed at the growing list of authors who have articulated that …

Book Review of Rita Wong’s “Undercurrent”

rob mclennan a review of: Undercurrent By Rita Wong Nightwood Editions ISBN 978-0-88971-308-6   both the ferned & the furry, the herbaceous & the human, can call the ocean our ancestor. our blood plasma sings the composition of seawater. roughly half a billion years ago, ocean reshaped some of its currents into fungi, flora & fauna that left their marine homes & learned to exchange bodily fluids on land. spreading like succulents & stinging nettles, our salty-wet bodies refilled their fluids through an eating that is also always drinking. hypersea is a story of how we rearrange our oceanic selves on land. we are liquid matrix, streaming & recombining through ingestic one another, as a child swallows a juicy plum, as a beaver chews on tree, as a hare inhales a patch of moist, dewy clover. what do we return to the ocean that let us loose on land? we are animals moving extracted & excreted minerals into the ocean without plan or precaution, making dead zones though we are capable of life. (“BORROWED WATERS: …

“a trip into the abyss” by Jordan Simpson: a Design Review of “House of Leaves” by Mark Z Danielewski

Jordan Simpson a review of: House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski Pantheon Books ISBN: 0-375-70376-4 Reading Mark Z. Danielewski’s “novel” House of Leaves (Feb 29, 2000) is a lot like looking at one of famed Dutch artist M.C. Escher’s lithographs, while trying to solve a Rubik’s cube, while speaking a foreign language—backwards. And this is just the book’s design. At its essence, the book’s layout, format, and even—correction, especially—typography refuse to allow it to be read in a sane manner. Take for instance Scott Wampler of BadassDigest.com, who upon meeting Danielewski asked him for any advice in decrypting the novel’s more esoteric features. Danielewski replied, ‘”I’ll give you this hint: if you ever really want to get to the bottom of things, you’ll need to use a protractor and compass while reading the book.’” Spooky. Even in writing this review, it’s simply a hard book to explain or summarize, and a challenge to the very concept of what a book’s “supposed” to be. House of Leaves is about, yes a house, but more importantly a …

Book Review of Blue Sonoma by Jane Munro

Micheline Maylor A Review of Blue Sonoma By Jane Munro Brick Books $20.00 ISBN: 978-1-926829-88-3 Blue Sonoma is a collection that begins with a mantra and becomes a study of images, illness, and landscape. Poet, Jane Munro, in her sixth collection, does this without a twinge of nostalgia, but claims observance through immediacy and wonder. In this, Munro claims her skill as poetic observer. She studies Japanese forms actively and we see the results in her clean attentive images, bare of superfluous detail. In the section “Darkling”, about her partner’s descent into Alzheimer’s, we see meditative simplicity reflected in the question about relationship. Mallard above. Mallard below. Two green, iridescent necks, one reaching up, one down. Two curls on two tails. And us, were we substance or reflection? Moon boat sailing high. (28) With precision the poet answers the question using the image of moon as both object of substance and reflection. In this way Munro manipulates the words to entrance and delight. Exacting syntax building image is a habit she maintains throughout the book …