Category: Book Reviews

Check out book reviews of titles from independent publishers and university presses on the NewPages Blog.

  • Book Review :: The Damage Done by Susana H. Case

    The Damage Done by Susana Case book cover image

    Guest Post by Jami Macarty

    In The Damage Done, Susana H. Case creates a poetic noir, “drawn from the history of the FBI in the 1960s and 1970s,” where “[a]ll kinds of things / spin out of control,” where “anything could happen.” Like all noir, the book opens with a dead body: Janey’s, a fictionalized amalgam of a Twiggy-like supermodel and a girlfriend of one of “the Panthers.” Janey’s unsolved death becomes a means for the poet to speak about the objectification of women—in life and death—as well as those implicated in the death of a woman. The woman’s death also becomes a means for the poet to speak about prejudice and corruption within the NYPD and FBI, whose detectives and agents exploit Janey’s death, using it as justification to coerce information, plant evidence, and initiate “warrantless taps.” The authorities insist that “people / don’t always know what they know.” They abuse their power with impunity: “It can be arranged that the wrong one / is fingered, a natural patsy.” This is a book about the power “of information, of disinformation”; a book about power games: “play or get out of the game.” This is a book about collateral damage to the lives of women and Black people: “(Witnesses always see a black man.) / So what if the law implicates the wrong / man, the cops argue, sooner or later / / he’d do something bad—think of picking / him up as a sort of prevention detention.” In the end, the lawman is the one who has the privilege; he “wonders whether / walking away is all you can do,” and he gets to live and to walk away. But, Susana H. Case joins the revolutionaries of the 60s and 70s, whose causes are just as poignant now.


    The Damage Done by Susana H. Case. Broadstone Books, February 2022.

    Jami Macarty is the author of The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona, and three chapbooks, including Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Jami’s writing has been honored by financial support from Arizona Commission on the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council, and by editors at magazines such as The Capilano Review, Concision Poetry Journal, Interim, Redivider, Vallum, and Volt, where Jami’s poems are forthcoming.

  • Book Review :: Rationalism by Douglas Luman

    Rationalism by Douglas Luman book cover image

    Guest Post by Nicholas Michael Ravnikar

    When a computer scientist plies the tools of his trade to critique Fascist propaganda through the vehicle of contemporary poetry, the result can be hit or miss. But Douglas Luman’s Rationalism solemnly invites its reader to collaborate in a gleeful travesty of authoritarian structures.

    Luman’s slim volume comprises 31 mistranslations assembled from an archive of Fascist architectural magazines, along with an epigraph, an elucidating (if too brief) endnote on his research, and an acknowledgments page that meditates on the rise of Trumpist populism as a symptom of the same system that underwrites police brutality. The untitled pieces in the collection largely suggest a tone and structure that echoes the sonnet without its various preordained formal concerns for rhyme and measure. The beams that fall through the cracks cast shadows of narrative fragments.

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  • Book Review :: All Morning the Crows by Meg Kearney

    All the Morning Crows by Meg Kearney book cover image

    Guest Post by James Scruton

    Every poem in Meg Kearney’s All Morning the Crows has a bird for its title, from the exotic (“Parrot,” “Ibis,” “Ostrich”) to the local (“Oriole,” “Wren,” “Juncos”). Inspired, as Kearney notes in a preface, by Diana Wells’ 2002 book 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names, the collection is equally animated by the tension between the OED definitions of “bird” she offers at the start: not only the general term for any feathered species but also slang for “maiden, girl, a woman.”

    The poems take their own flights, harrowing or defiant or tender. In “Albatross,” the speaker recalls the sailor “who approached you / on the beach, spoke to you as if you were / a woman, you in the new bikini / none of the boys back home had noticed.” She is “too flattered to flee, though / the constant surf said Leave, Leave.” “Duckling, Swan” tells the fable in the voice of the once-mocked hatchling, who later returned “aglow with my gleaming” and “blinded them all.” Part elegy, part inquiry into art’s power amidst the flux of living, “Pheasant” gives the collection its title, the bird here etched in cemetery granite, wings stretched and awaiting “a flight that never begins.” By contrast, “All morning the crows / have behaved badly,” the speaker observes, as if a parallel to the poet’s meager words in the face of loss.

    By the end of the volume, a kind of narrative emerges that we may take as autobiographical. But the collection has a larger scope as well, testifying to the range of human feeling and to the resilience of the poetic voice itself.


    All Morning the Crows by Meg Kearney. The Word Works, April 2021.

    Reviewer bio: James Scruton’s most recent chapbook is The Rules (Green Linden Press, 2019).

  • Book Review :: Through a Grainy Landscape by Millicent Borges Accardi

    Through a Grainy Landscape by Millicent Borges Accardi book cover image

    Guest Post by Jami Macarty

    Through a Grainy Landscape by Millicent Borges Accardi is a poetry collection that writes with and is an homage to Portuguese and Portuguese American writers. This poet creates the company and community she seeks, celebrating her Portuguese familial and artistic heritage. Company, community, and celebration are necessary antidotes within the world of the poems which express the unrelenting anxieties of immigrants and that contribute to the immigrant experience as it relates to family, belonging, identity, and home. If in the “old country” life is “joined to water,” in the new country, America, “secrets,” “disguise,” and “anonymity” join a life to being “trapped / inside an identity you did not imagine / you would be” and “[e]xisting in a variety / of lost stages of fitting in and awkward / strength.” These poems of lacunae, of saudade, of “being Memory alone” make every effort to belong to the present while they long for the past, “because that is what grief is, a primary feeling / that must be exposed.” Accardi’s poems, belonging to two worlds, are “a dark mixture of all [she] has lost” and gained through landscape and language.


    Through a Grainy Landscape by Millicent Borges Accardi. New Meridian, October 2021.

    Jami Macarty is the author of The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona, and three chapbooks, including Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Jami’s writing has been honored by financial support from Arizona Commission on the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council, and by editors at magazines such as The Capilano Review, Concision Poetry Journal, Interim, Redivider, Vallum, and Volt, where Jami’s poems are forthcoming.

  • Book Review :: What is Left by Carla Rachel Sameth

    Guest Post by Ginger Pinholster

    What is Left by Carla Rachel book cover image

    Deeply personal Pandemic Moments become vivid in What is Left, Carla Rachel Sameth’s engaging poetry collection. The work marries dark humor with pathos. Beginning with the first poem, which admonishes us to “Cover mouth and nose with dirty pictures and think of Santa Claus, but younger,” Sameth captures our magical thinking in the early days of COVID-19. Her poems are rich with longing, too. She aches for mask-free closeness with her child. Because he is a young black man, she reels in horror at the brutal police killing of George Floyd, knowing that, for her son and all people of color, the “body = target.” Her descriptions of kindness also overflow with love; she writes of a friend delivering flowers as “fragrances of hope.” Richly diverse, What is Left is uniquely American: Sameth remembers her Grandma Pearl’s Yiddish songs, and she writes with feeling about her son and her wife. After months of quarantine – when, as Sameth notes, we were like housecats, “confined to our corners, dependent” – What is Left feels like a warm hug.


    What is Left by Carla Rachel Sameth. dancing girl press, December 2021.

    Reviewer bio: Ginger Pinholster’s debut novel, City in a Forest, received a Gold Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers Association in 2020. Her second novel, Snakes of St. Augustine, will be distributed by Regal House Publishing in September 2023. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in the Eckerd Review, Northern Virginia Review, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @gingerpin or at https://www.GingerPinholster.com.

  • Book Review :: Resurrecting a Genre by O’Neill and Meyer

    The Way Forward by Robert O'Neill and Dakota Meyer book cover image

    Guest Post by Shelby Kearns

    The candor and vulnerability in The Way Forward: Master Life’s Toughest Battles and Create Your Lasting Legacy by Robert O’Neill and Dakota Meyer just might resurrect the military memoir/self-help genre.

    This new book by O’Neill and Meyer certainly has its predictable moments, emulating American Sniper and other made-for-Hollywood books. Part one has life lessons from O’Neill’s upbringing in Butte, Montana, and Meyer’s in Columbia, Kentucky. Part two is stories of boot camp, combat, and their post-military careers. Their Hollywood-worthy stories include O’Neill firing the shot that killed Osama bin Laden and Meyer receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Ganjgal in 2009.

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  • The Red Canoe: A Thrilling Ride

    The Red Canoe book cover image

    Guest Post by Cindy Fazzi

    A canoe is no speedboat, but Wayne Johnson’s The Red Canoe is a thrill of a ride. At the center of the novel are Buck, a carpenter, and fifteen-year-old Lucy. They are both Ojibwe living on the border of Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community reservation in Minnesota.

    One afternoon, while Buck is building a boat in his garage, a girl in a dirty pink hoodie appears. Her name is Lucy, and she says: “I’d like to learn how to make boats.”

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  • The Everyday Life of Cyclops

    Guest Post by Kevin Brown.

    Cyclopedia Exotica, the latest graphic novel by Aminder Dhaliwal, begins as a series of encyclopedia entries explaining how cyclops (or cyclopes, spelled both ways throughout the work) and Two-Eyes have interacted over time. Dhaliwal imagines a world where cyclops not only exist, but their history has combined with those of the Two-Eyes, referencing mythological works, but planting this relationship directly in the contemporary world.

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  • Flying High with John Gillespie Magee

    Guest Post by Laura Bridge.

    “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee (1941) is a special poem that I discovered at just the right moment. It was March 2020. In the UK, schools were preparing to close due to Covid-19. I was supposed to be teaching my class of eleven-year-olds about the Second World War, but the children were anxious and restless; I did not want to add to their worries. In a frantic panic to find something uplifting but still on topic, I came across Magee’s sonnet. It was the perfect combination of energy and hope. 

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  • Don’t Miss This Debut Novel

    Guest Post by Alexandra Grabbe.

    Olga Dies Dreaming is a tour de force. Xochitl (pronounced So-Cheel) Gonzalez has ticked off all the boxes—Literary, Commercial, Family Saga, LBGTQ, BIPOC. The tight prose moves as efficiently as Spielberg’s West Side Story dancers.

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