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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Michigan Quarterly Reviews Smallwood's Newest Poetry



In Hubble’s Shadow
By Carol Smallwood
Published by Shanti Arts, 2017 Brunswick, Main
98 pages,  $14.95, paperback
Available on Amazon

Reviewed by Stephen C. Holder, Ph.D , Professor Emeritus, Central Michigan University, originally for Michigan Quarterly Review May 16, 2017

The successful writer must, of course, have a solid understanding of language and usage. The creative writer needs a much rarer quality: the ability to communicate insights and visions, to offer new and often challenging perspectives, to make the abstract concrete, to portray emotion. In her fine collection of poems, In Hubble’s Shadow, Carol Smallwood shows all these qualities, and more. At first reading, these poems seem quite different from one another; repeated readings, however, reveal thematic similarities which make the inclusion of the poems in one volume more than appropriate. Those already familiar with Smallwood’s work will be glad to read these poems side by side. Those new to Smallwood’s world can expect to be charmed by her artistry and vision.

Smallwood writes clearly and accurately. Her fine vocabulary allows the reader ready access to a visual participation in the poems, without the distractions of complex wording. The varied figurative language, especially metaphor, helps to make the invisible visible, leading to both certainty and conjecture. Simple images, such as the dandelion in the sidewalk crack or ice in lemonade, invite us to compare our own experience and find meaning where there was none before. More complex, but equally intangible experiences can be found in poems like “Rearrangements,” which explores the aftereffects of covert child abuse, although each victim is different.

In this collection many of the short, yet complete. For example, in “The Sugar Beet Field” the last word, “regret,’ compels the reader to return to the opening line, “Acres of low green flourish,” and contrast “flourish” with “regret.” Smallwood seems equally adept in longer forms, as in the narrative “Dreams of Flying Sestina.” She occasionally makes use of repetition, much like Robert Frost. The opening and closing lines of “Dirt Roads,” for example, drive home the theme of the poem: “Dirt roads as reality checks are to be recommended.”

Throughout the collection, the commonplace always suggests more. A good example is the transcendental quality about “Ode to Mud” that connects dirt roads in the spring to man’s small place in the universe. This is the sort of musing that showcases the artistry of Smallwood’s poems. In her universe everything is related to everything else, both in time and space. The concrete becomes an abstract vision of life. In “Water, Earth, Air, and Fire” we see both ancient and modern attempts to gain access to universal mystery; the concluding allusion to blind Teirasias, who could see better than the sighted, connects to the modern dilemma of the speaker of the poem. Indeed, the distance between the poet’s intent and the reader’s response is considerable in many of these poems. As we are reminded in “Wind in Trees,” “the story lies with the interpreter.” And, of course, reality is often invisible and “seeing is believing” is not always true. In “They say” Smallwood ponders black holes and other phenomena, but concludes, “And yet, who has seen the wind?” Probably, this lack of concrete certainty is not a bad thing, however. “It Rained Today” ends this way: “It’s good we don’t know that//much about rain.”

Carol Smallwood’s gift of sharing her experiences and reflections with her readers somehow makes us we know her and like her. She is realistic but not cold. Her insights become ours. She leaves her readers asking for more.



MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG


 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ). This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Irwin Allen's Lost in Space
Subtitle: Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series, Volume 2
Author: Marc Cushman
Publisher: Jacob Brown Media Group; 1 edition (November 1, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0692747567
ISBN-13: 978-0692747568

Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton originally for BookPleasures.com

I rather expected Volume 2 of Marc Cushman’s exhaustive history of Lost in Space would have to be much thinner and less engaging than Volume 1. After all, Vol. 1 included the pre-LIS careers of Irwin Allen and all the cast members as well as an in-depth look at Allen’s first TV sci fi series, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. For Vol 2, what else could Cushman do other than review all the episodes produced in season 2 of LIS? Well, he could, and does, give us a very decent overview of Allen’s prematurely cancelled Time Tunnel that ran on ABC from fall 1966 to spring 1967. 

In many ways, my expectations were spot on. But not completely. This is especially true of the early discussions which focus on the changes that came when the show was now produced in color.  Over and over, we’re told how “pop art” the visuals became, perfectly timed to coincide with the psychedelic ‘60s. As Cushman looks at the first episodes of the 1966-1967 season, it doesn’t seem like most of the cast members were all that important, other than the break-out star, Jonathan Harris.  As with season 1, he continued to be not only an actor but a major script re-writer as well.

In fact, cast member Marta Kristen, who played Judy Robinson, said the program became the Jonathan Harris show with his evil Dr. Zachery Smith taking up the lion’s share of the time along with Bob May inside the robot and Bill Mumy’s Will Robinson. Guy Williams and June Lockhart, who had been major TV stars in their past series (Zorro, Lassie) had only sporadic lines and duties. In addition, the program became, more and more, a comedic fantasy emphasizing monsters, special effects, outlandish props, and oddball guest stars.   With the apparent exception of network president William Paley, whom Cushman says was embarrassed by shows like LIS, CBS liked the changes. Top executives preferred a lighter touch that appealed to younger viewers which made for a winning formula against ABC’s Batman.

I was surprised to see just how much competitiveness Allen felt with the newcomer to network TV sci fi, the more serious Star Trek. For much of that season, in terms of ratings, LIS was often the weekly winner. Writers who worked on both series felt freer when scripting for LIS as there were fewer restrictions on what they could create. I wasn’t aware of how much pioneer work took place in LIS, especially with filming those outer space visuals and creating those weird props.

For a time, I felt like I was reading nothing more than a very, very detailed episode guide, something only diehard fans would enjoy. As Cushman admits, “my books redefine `TMI’." True enough. Nonetheless, there’s a warm tone that runs through the production notes. It’s clear Cushman liked the series when it first aired and he likes it, perhaps even more so, now.  There are frequent moments when Cushman takes the time to point to just what made a specific episode special or entertaining. He tells us the better stories had themes, as in the lessons children learned about topics like self-sacrifice, tolerance, lost innocence, or sexual equality. Such thematic material, of course, wasn’t present in many more fantastic episodes. 

In the end, it will be the serious fans who’ll want this second volume in the LIS saga. I can well imagine many TV sci fi fans who would also like to skim a book about one of the pioneer series in the genre. Certainly, most libraries should shelve this series, especially if they specialize in popular culture, TV production, or media studies. It’s not a cover-to-cover read, but rather a readable reference work.

MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER 

Dr. Wesley Britton is the author of Beta-Earth Chronicles

MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG


 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ). This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Veteran Reviewer Recommends Sci-Fi Thriller

Blue Gold 
By David Barker
Paperback: 360 pages
Publisher: Urbane Publications (June 1, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1911331655
ISBN-13: 978-1911331650


Reviewed by: Dr. Wesley Britton originally for Book Pleasures 

Blue Gold is one of those fast-paced thrillers that demand focused reader attention. That’s because there are so many moving parts including changing global settings and Barker introducing a wide cast of important characters.

Set in the not-so-distant future, as they say, this addition to the “cli-fi” (climate fiction) genre revolves around two major protagonists, British agents Sim Atkins and his partner, Freda Brightwell. Atkins is a relative rookie whom the experienced Brightwell doesn’t accept with much enthusiasm. She’s distinguished by an ornate walking stick which doesn’t discourage Sim from an ongoing study of his “boss’s” legs. Sim is doubtful this pair can accomplish what is asked of them; Freda believes just a few brave souls can do what inactive masses won’t, even preventing World War III. 
   
Their investigations begin by looking into the projects of very sophisticated worldwide terrorists and rogue governments who destroy satellites over Iceland, blow up airships, and infiltrate the most sensitive of governmental military computers all over the world.  In fact, side stories and parallel plot lines occur in England, America, Ethiopia, Egypt, Israel, India, Pakistan, Japan, Canada, and China, among other locations. All the events and back-stories in these places aren’t presented in a linear flow but do establish just how turbulent the world order has become. 

Easily speculative fiction if not overtly sci fi, Blue Gold occurs in a world with acute water shortages due to global climate changes.  Most of the international conflicts are responses to the growing crisis. There are also riots and terrorism based on economic inequality, especially the workers of the world unhappy about corporations not paying their fair share of taxes.   The rich are leaving behind their land based citizenships to live on the sea where they owe no taxes to anyone.

Futuristic elements include a reliance on AI (artificial intelligence), hyper-sonic surveillance drones, and a moon base mining for minerals. Through it all, the author says the point of the book is to expand awareness of what might happen to our planet’s water supply if we don’t address the growing problems of global warming.  In addition, the author says he is using Blue Gold to help raise awareness for the charity, WaterAid, one of the organizations he describes in one of his lengthy appendices.

I highly recommend Blue Gold to pretty much every reader who likes intelligent fiction.     It can be classified, if you need labels to determine your reading list, as an espionage thriller, speculative fiction, science fiction, a mystery, sometimes a political thriller, certainly “cli-fi.” Happily, while the book has a polemic point to make, Barker doesn’t preach to us and doesn’t hit us over the head with his themes. This is an entertaining, action-packed, vividly descriptive tale with memorable characters and, sadly, a more than plausible future for us to worry about. Speaking of the future, while I wasn’t crazy about the final scene on the last page of the main text, I was delighted to see Blue Gold is the first volume of a new trilogy. In the teaser chapter for book 2, I see why Blue Gold ended the way it did. So I have two more books to look forward to.


MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER 

Dr. Wesley Britton is the author of Beta-Earth Chronicles

MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG


 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ). This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Friday, July 28, 2017

California Book Watch "Very Highly Recommends" California Author's Newest Book


Title: How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically
Subtitle: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career.
Author: Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Third in the #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers
Author's Website: http://howtodoitfrugally.com
ISBN: 9781536948370
$17.95 PB
$9.95 Kindle

Reviewed by Diane Donovan originally for California Book Watch 
"Writing and Publishing Shelf"

Photo by Joy V. Smith
How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally 
and Ethically should be on the reading lists of anyone interested in gaining and, even more important, using book reviews. It informs both self- and traditionally-published authors of the ins and outs of getting and utilizing reviews; but most importantly, it discusses some of the tips and tricks for doing so - and reveals many approaches to avoid. From making the most of the best review from the most authoritative source to knowing what to do if the review process goes awry, this outlines the entire process of media promotion in the course of explaining the difference between a good and bad review, how they can be effectively utilized, and what to avoid. Very highly recommended!

MORE ABOUT CALIFORNIA BOOK WATCH

This online journal features a regular feature "The Writing/Publishing Shelf." It is a good place to find reviewers who specialized in different genres and--of course--great reading, too.   http://www.midwestbookreview.com/calbw/jun_17.htm#Writing/Publishing


California Bookwatch
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575 



MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG


 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ). This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Immigrant Shares Spiritual Path in Memoir

Title: What I Gain Through His Pain
Author: Nicole Benoit-Roy
Genre: Autobiography
Buy the Book: goo.gl/dvfv7S

Reviewed by Patricia Renard Scholes originally for LoreKeepersPublishingServices
Do you ever feel like God isn't listening? Do you feel alone, discouraged, or abandoned? In this poignant self-reflection, Nicole Benoit-Roy shows how God is very active, no matter what we go through. 

Jesus gave his life so we could have a personal, fulfilling relationship with Him. Follow Benoit-Roy through her struggles to find where God was during each struggle, from an abusive work situation to the death of her brother, from separation from her husband through renewing their relationship, and much more. You are not alone.

Nicole is an amazing woman. She immigrated from Haiti, has overcome language and cultural conflicts, is highly educated, and is a woman fully devoted to God. Her book will inspire you.
MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Patricia Renard Scholes is the author of the Lorekeeper series.


MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Learn more about Nicole Benoit-Roy's new book at  http://nicoleroyministries.org/what-i-gain-through-his-pain. She is the award-winning author of Jesus Loves Everybody: Especially Me and you can lear more here:

MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG


 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ). This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tulane Ph.D. Candidate Reviews Poetry about Immigrants


Les Lettres de La Nouvelle-Orléans
By Bouchaib Gadir
Paris: L’Harmattan, 2017
ISBN: 978-2-343-110172
Genre: migrant poetry

Reviewed by: Erika Mandarino, Ph.D. Candidate in French Studies at Tulane University

In his Lettres de La Nouvelle-Orléans, Gadir liberates the language of his culture to redefine himself and overturn the stereotypes of the Arab-American. The poet abandons himself in the city of New Orleans, embracing its eccentricities, immortalizing its characters, and relating it to Paris: the city of lights, freedom and love. Along his illuminated path he drops breadcrumbs that allow him to revisit those dark corners of his memory; it is in the ever-present darkness that Gadir finds the Morocco of his childhood. In the poem “My Language and the Enlightenment,” he recalls the language of religion scribed onto the tablets in Koranic school that would threaten to bind him and his sisters in the same destiny, and he compares it to the language of culture that would allow him to buy flowers for the mother of his children, or to appreciate an art exhibit. It is culture that untethers the individual from the burden of religion, and Gadir’s poems are an ode to culture and individuality, where the interplay of light and darkness is the current that carries the reader from one poem to the next.

The first poem in the series titled “Ballet” begins with an invitation to know the dynamic character underneath the cumbersome name “Bouchaib”:

“Call me Bouchaib”
Between bursts of laughter
She signals for me to speak
To another secretary

My given name is Bouchaib
A name that I carry
Like a sin

The reader instantly recalls the great American novelist Herman Melville’s famous opening line of Moby Dick, “Call me Ishmael.” But for the secretary—and therefore all of those who represent an official verdict—the rich literary heritage that identifies the individual goes unnoticed, overshadowed by the Muslim name.

In his poems Gadir shucks the connotations of difference from his Arabic name, but instead of discarding the shell, like a true New Orleanian artist he creates from it reclaimed art. “Why don’t you change your name?” asks the ballerina, to which he answers:

Through it I dreamed
Through it I tore myself away
Through it I found happiness

A name can only define you to an extent; it also provides the means to break away and redefine yourself. New Orleans, on the other hand, did not have to carve a piece out of itself to make room for Gadir; it had always had a place for him. The very essence of the city depends upon those wayward artists who dare to indulge in tempestuous, uninhibited expression. Gadir’s portrayal of the city highlights this affinity with New-Orleanian artists. In the poem “A Paintbrush… A Canvas,” the poet evokes the painter Frenchy who captures the musicians of Rebirth Brass Band (depicted on the cover of the collection) in a celebration of synesthesia. Like Frenchy, for whom “The paintbrush brings forth the wound from the darkness,” Gadir’s paintbrush is his pen, at once uncovering and healing the wounds inflicted upon him by the past.

But in applauding the living legends of New Orleans, Gadir does not overlook the onerous—and often fruitless—labor for success in the city. In “The Saxophonist” we empathize with the ambulant, nameless artist whose music tells a different story than that of the famed Louis Armstrong, and in “Life Has Disappointed Him or So It Seems,” we see a young cook excluded from that jovial culture he works so hard to proliferate.

The Lettres de La Nouvelle-Orléans are a reminder of the constant task of defining oneself in a world that tries to do it for you, and recognition that our differences are what unify us. To the struggling saxophonist, to his past and future self, and to his reader Gadir leaves this heartfelt advice:

Play your piece
Rise up in your skies
Be different
Resemblance is in pain
Difference is in playing
Resemblance is in redundancy
Difference is resemblance




MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG


 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ). This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Five Stars for Book on Mind Control, Sexism, Supremacy

Title: The Truth About White Supremacy, Sexism, and Mind Control in America
Author: A. L. Bryant
Publisher: BookBaby
ISBN: 9781543900026 
EBook: $4.99
Available as an e-book on Amazon  
 Reviewed By Sefina Hawke for Readers’ Favorite - 5 Stars -  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Truth About White Supremacy, Sexism, and Mind Control in America (Astonishing Discoveries, Unearthed Secrets, and How to Heal) by A.L. Bryant is 
 non-fiction inspirational book that would appeal most to an audience of adults interested in learning about the true facts of white supremacy, sexism, and mind control in the United States of America. A.L. Bryant examines the truth behind how racism and sexism began, and how it evolved into what it is today. She goes on to scrutinize what mind control is, who uses it, and how. Are you ready to open your mind to the truth of these dark aspects that have been plaguing America for years?

The Truth About White Supremacy, Sexism, and Mind Control in America by A.L. Bryant is first and foremost an interesting book that provides a whole new perspective on some of the critical issues that are plaguing America. I liked how the author delved into the psychology of the issues as the author presented not just the proven facts, but also the impact of the mind on them. I found the examination of mind control to be my favorite part as it had the most psychology involved in it. Overall, this book taught me more about these issues than I ever knew. I truly hope the author decides to continue to write more on such issues as the way the information was explained and portrayed made for excellent reading material! Here's the reviewer's link:

MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG


 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ). This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.