Book Reviews

The Story of Jazz and Vihar

“The Story of Jazz and Vihar” by Kathy Guthormsen is a sweet story and the author’s love of these three birds comes through on every page. I look forward to sharing this book with my grandchildren and taking them to see birds like this at a bird rescue center near them. —B, retired teacher and team manager, and grandmother of 3 The richly textured, vibrant artwork accompanying each page portrays Poe, Jazz and Vihar—their appearance, plumage, talons, even expressions —in realistic detail. Explanatory sidebars, also in color, flesh out the story with facts about great horned owls and ravens.—G, retired librarian and Bird Rescue Center volunteer  I like it because it because it feels like the story is set by Poe and it’s just like you can see the point of view from the owls and what they go through. I also like the pictures a lot and honestly give this book a…

Book Reviews

Shaman Heart, Turning Pain Into Passion and Purpose

“Shaman Heart, Turning Pain Into Passion and Purpose”, a Brave Healer Production, invites readers to develop a shaman heart — one that can only be obtained by coming through our darkest moments more healed and whole and then lighting the way for others. As the anthology’s lead author, singer-songwriter, recording artist, and teacher Stephanie Urbina Jones writes, “Whether it’s a death of a loved one, divorce, illness or depression, we can turn our pain into an initiation and be a sacred witness or messenger in these bittersweet, crossroad moments in life. From this place of humbled, broken-open wisdom and grace, we can then walk with others and assist them as they journey through their own darkness to the dawn of a new beginning.” The genesis for Shaman Heart occurred on January 5, 2022, when Urbina Jones and 25 other leading spiritual teachers, preachers, and healers spent a week together at the Dreaming House in the heart of Mexico. “Each author…

Book Reviews

Children of the Decree

Children of the Decree: A Journalist’s Battle to Save Romanian Children and Herself by Maria D. Holderman. Review by Janis Couvreux Many of us remember the children’s adoption scandal in Romania of the late 1990s. Thanks to the dogged efforts of journalist Maria Holderman, this scandal came to light. However, this is only a fraction of her story, as Maria sorts through the social, political, and ideological events and issues of Romania’s Communist regime during her childhood and the post-1989 Communist bloc break-up. Through her personal story that intertwines with a 40-year timeline, Maria reveals how she became passionately involved in seeking and bringing about changes through her investigative journalism. Then suddenly it all comes to an abrupt halt. Like a cat’s nine lives, Maria has lived several as well, vanquishing tragedy to fall back on her feet. This is a story of a remarkable woman told through her own…

Book Reviews

Anxious People

“Anxious People” by the gifted Frederik Backman is the most brilliant novel I have read. I wasn’t drawn in right away. I am really glad I kept reading. This book is so extraordinary, when I finished, I had to read it again to see how Backman pulled it off. I highly recommend “Anxious People.” The humor is subtle, the characters are multi-layered, and the plot seems simple. But, as details are revealed, it is clearly a book about the complexities of relationships and how we navigate the crevices of life. I cannot use enough superlatives to describe the cleverly written “Anxious People.” Note: Some people did not like this book. I think you have to read at least to page 34 to decide yay or nay to “Anxious People,” by Fredrik Backman. Review by Marlene Cullen. #amwriting #justwrite #creativewriting

Book Reviews

Bright Dead Things

Dave Seter’s review of “Bright Dead Things” by Ada Limón: In life’s trajectory from childhood story hour to adult happy hour, good storytellers are in demand. While some theories of poetry argue for silencing the “I” of authorship, Ada Limón’s brand of poetry is personal and emotionally honest. If a mere book of poetry can invite the reader into the kitchen for coffee and a story, Limón’s new collection Bright Dead Things does just that. Bright Dead Things explores the duality of joy and suffering. The phrase “bright dead things” comes from the collection’s poem “I Remember the Carrots.” Limón writes: “When I was a kid, I was excited about carrots, / their spidery neon tops in the garden’s plot.” The child, wanting to possess this beauty, rips out the immature crop and is scolded by her father. The poem expresses regret but also resistance to a life of passivity. Right out of…

Book Reviews

Don’t Sing to Me of Electric Fences

“The title of my poetry collection comes from the last line in my poem ‘Open Range’ which explores my drive from Boise to the Duck Valley Reservation to work on a mine reclamation project. I experienced that part of the Western United States with all the complications of disappearing culture, including among the last stretches of unfenced or ‘open’ range, and the ascendant culture of hard rock mining and appetite for copper.” —Dave Seter, Don’t Sing to Me of Electric Fences Reviews of “Don’t Sing to Me of Electric Fences“ “The title of Seter’s captivating collection may remind you of Whitman’s ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ from Leaves of Grass, but where Whitman celebrates the human physical body, Seter’s poems, in party, decry the effect humans have had on nature and revel in nature itself. Electricity runs throughout the pages, from ‘Open Range,’ where the speaker meets a free-range steer…

Book Reviews

Swimming Grand Canyon and Other Poems

Susan Bono’s review of “Swimming Grand Canyon and Other Poems” by Rebecca Lawton. I am not a person who knows rivers, although some part of me yearns to be. That’s why I’ve been a fan of Rebecca Lawton’s writing ever since I read her essay collection, “Reading Water: Lessons from the River.” She takes me to those places in myself. In “Swimming Grand Canyon” she shows me her love for rivers with lines like, “The water has no bones/but carries things we love.” I expected this and was grateful for it. But I soon became aware that these poems are channeled through the hard gates of life, and that is what sticks with me. She warned me early on in “It’s Like Life” when she wrote, “You think you’ll jump on/and just ride.” Of course, it’s always more complicated than that, and I realized as I read on how much…

Book Reviews

Nighthawks

Nighthawks by Katherine Hastings reviewed by David Seter. Bursting from a railway tunnel into daylight I’ve often been shocked into the brightness of living. Trees seem leafier. Coffee shops beckon. Katherine Hastings takes the reader along for such a ride in her second collection Nighthawks. The journey progresses from New York City to Hastings’ home turf of Sonoma County, California, with stops along the way. A critic shaking off the dust of library stacks might be tempted to call Hastings a poet’s poet. After all, the collection’s first poem “Central Park Zoo” begins “Dear Garcia Lorca” and concludes not much has changed since the poet’s visit to New York City in 1929. While a student at Columbia University, Lorca witnessed first-hand Black Tuesday, the stock market crash. In Hastings’ poem a llama paces its enclosure in the zoo with “no one to speak llama to.” A woman sits on a bank’s…

Book Reviews

Queen Mary’s Daughter

Queen Mary’s Daughter by Emily-Jane Hills Orford  Emily-Jane Hills Orford’s new novel, “Queen Mary’s Daughter” is a highly original, fast-paced, skillfully written alternate history set in the sixteenth, seventeenth and twenty-first centuries. The central character, a young Canadian editor named Mary Elizabeth, journeys to Kinross, home of Loch Leven Castle, to trace her roots. Raised by her grandmother after her parents’ accidental death, she has grown up on stories about Scotland, and is fulfilling her grandma’s last wish in making this journey.    The first hint of time travel in “Queen Mary’s Daughter” occurs when Mary Elizabeth feels strangely drawn toward the loch. Just as someone is pulling her back to dry land, she hears, from far away and from within herself, a scream. Then she blacks out. A scream occurs in the next chapter, which flashes back to Loch Leven Castle in 1567 where a woman has just given birth to twins. When one…

Book Reviews

Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story

If you’re looking for a murder mystery with a clever wooly sleuth, then “Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story” by Leonie Swann is for you! I haven’t read many mysteries, but I do love a good animal story, so this book caught my attention. Who wouldn’t be interested in a story about a flock of sheep determined to solve the mystery of their shepherd’s death? How, you may ask, does a flock of sheep solve a mystery? Well, these aren’t just any sheep. George, their shepherd, read to them every day, so they’ve been exposed to philosophical literature, mysteries, and romance novels. With the intrepid Miss Maple in the lead, the gang escapes their pasture to do a little detective work in the village while trying to go unnoticed by the village butcher. They gaze up at cloud sheep – what becomes of a sheep when they die—as they…