Year: 2019

Book Review: Michael Dickman’s “Flies”

Book Review: Michael Dickman’s “Flies”

Maybe I shouldn’t read poetry today. Or maybe I just don’t agree with the Academy of American Poets’ choices for the winners of the two most prestigious prizes in American poetry for 2010. In any case, I find Michael Dickman’s second collection “Flies” wanting.

And I feel guilty for it. It mostly addresses Dickman’s older brother who committed suicide and the emotional scars left behind: a worthy subject, and one that most readers will readily sympathise with. Dickman has my sympathies as well, but not enough to blind me to the short-falls of this poetry.

It is called “Flies” for a reason. Almost every poem brings in flies as imagery and gives these very tender treatment, more tender treatment than it does the humans who populate the pieces. In fact, there are so many flies that I began to imagine the poems as set in the dead heat of summer in the South rather than in cool, pleasant Portland, Oregon where Dickman lives. I also was reminded of steakhouse buffets my stepfather used to take us to where the flies lined the beams of the ceilings and blew around the tables like kings. Not a happy reminder. Whatever these flies are meant to illustrate or symbolise is lost on me.

Also, I had to check back with the cover several times to remind myself that I was not reading Charles Bukowski. These lines read so much like Bukowski that I have to wonder, Is Dickman consciously borrowing his voice? If so, what is Dickman’s voice? Imitation on this scale only works as a direct tribute. In this setting one is forced to ask, Why bother writing it at all?

But as I said, I feel guilty for this reaction when I consider what is being written about. Michael Dickman is clearly a man that has, in the words of Bono Hewson: “been in every black hole/ At the altar of a dark star.” (U2, “Moment of Surrender” from “No Line On The Horizon”, 2009). Therefore, his words here are fragments, violent, dirty, and unredeeming. He writes as a lost soul for a lost soul, his brother. I just wish he could have done so with a more original voice. But then, I’ve never really enjoyed the work of Charles Bukowski. If you do, you’ll probably like this collection.


Book Review: In the Shadow of My Brother’s Cold Blood

Book Review: In the Shadow of My Brother’s Cold Blood

I recently finished reading In the Shadow of My Brother’s Cold Blood . This was written by Lina LeBert-Corbello, Ph.D. It was told to her by Walter David Hickock. If the title of the book makes you think of In Cold Blood , it should.

Walter David Hickock, more common known as Dave was the brother of Richard Hickock, who was more commonly known as Dick. Dick Hickock was convicted as a participant in the Clutter murders. These are written about, although not with complete truth, in the book, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

In Cold Blood is not a bad book or movie. However, it does not deal with the reality of knowing a person. In the Shadow of My Brother’s Cold Blood deals with knowing the person from childhood and the effects that such a horrible event can have on a family.

It is found that Dick Hickock wasn’t always crazy or a bad person. There are a few reasons mentioned in the book why he may have snapped.

The first half of the book is dedicated to talking about Dick Hickock, his past, the murders, his arrest, and his hanging.

There are pictures of both Dick and Dave in the middle of the book.

The second half of the book deals with Dave’s struggles. He talks about his wives, his children, and the trouble he had finding peace.

It shows that there is more that happens to a family when a person commits a crime and when a person is sentenced to death. It is not only somebody who may be dangerous being killed.

If you have read or watched In Cold Blood or plan on doing either, the book In the Shadow of My Brother’s Cold Blood is book that should be read. It should be read before reading or watching In Cold Blood if possible.


Touchy Topics and Censorship in Literature

Touchy Topics and Censorship in Literature

After reading a few vague facebook posts raging about a book, my curiosity got the best of me. So, I did what any crazy over opinionated blogger would do. I searched Twitter for the source. My emotions went from annoyance over censorship, mortified by the content discussed and ultimately confused and disgusted by the support.

To further my knowledge on this particular book, I took to Goodreads. The place feared by authors and frequented by masses of readers. I wanted to be as educated as possible, without traumatizing myself or supporting the author by purchasing the book. I swam through the reviews of praises, freak-outs and a few very well written reviews giving specific incidences in WHY they rated this book the way they did. Thank you book reviewers.

In case you are staring at this with a blank face, here is the gist of it. Amazon banned said book, which I am going to call EWWW from here on out, from its site. Amazon’s censorship caused rage and spurred debates on both sides. One side about the book’s content. The other side about censorship. The censorship comes into play regarding incest. FULL DISCLOSURE I have not read this book. And I certainly have zero plans to. But, I will elaborate a little here, since maybe *some* incest might be just weird (like cousins or step-siblings). Taboo for sure, but not illegal or full-on disturbing. Other incest is disturbing as fuck, like fathers and daughters. YUP. This book goes there FULL ON. Adding to the level of disgust is the age of the daughter, who is underage.

So, here is the thing. I am not a fan a censorship in general. Yet, I believe some things shouldn’t exist to be censored. Romanticizing things like rape or sexualizing children shouldn’t even be part of romance. And just to be super specific – I am talking about romanticizing, not just existing. Lots of disturbing things exist in our world and I am NOT saying that just the good things need to exist in fiction. Lots of horror, thriller or mysteries might contain rape or various other hideous things. Again, I am not saying that those things need to change. Many times those books can push boundaries and create discussions about cultural issues that need to be talked about. But this particular book is supposed to be romance. EWWW is clearly marketed as romance. EWWW contains many sex scenes. EWWW clearly is making an attempt to romanticize a father / daughter sexual relationship. This shouldn’t be OK.

A standard should exist within the community and our society where these types of books don’t have the platform to exist. As a mother – I stand tall in stating that the subject matter and how it is portrayed is not OK.

Adding to my level of discomfort is the fact that the author is clearly using the banned issue as a marketing point. Making money off of something this dark and disturbing is beyond my level of comprehension. You see, this isn’t just fiction to some people. Some people have experienced being raped by their father, by their mother, by a friend… one deserves to have their trauma portrayed as fucking romance. And they sure as shit don’t deserve to have someone make money off of it or trying to.

Some of the support I have seen for EWWW seems to stem from a fear of censorship from Amazon. Stop it. Fear should not influence a decision that ultimately places you on the side of the argument that is supporting a sexual relationship between a father and daughter. This is not an OK message to send to our youth or our peers.

Taboo’s are one thing. Normalizing and romanticizing something this disgusting is NOT OK. Any healthy human being should be repulsed by this entire subject. It isn’t borderline anything. It is outright WRONG. The support I am witnessing is truly bothering me on a level I am having a hard time articulating.

We all need to stop and think long and hard before supporting ANY romance book that has such a high potential to do great harm.…

Book Review: Music and Suicide by Jeff Clark

Book Review: Music and Suicide by Jeff Clark

You have the right to demand recognition by the other. But you have no right to seek completion by means of the other. You will always be incomplete. Jeff Clark, “Shiva Hive”

I first encountered this little book in 2004 when it arrived in the mail as one of the benefits of my (now defunct) membership in the Academy of American Poets. I was enthralled with its music and daring. Clark admits to “a distrust of easy assonance/ musicality/ imaginativity not in the service of something progressive” and it abundantly shows.

The works contained in this book are varied in form. Sometimes they are free verse, sometimes in the form of an interview that reads like a confrontation with the self (“Shiva Hive”), and sometimes they look and feel like prose pieces. Not the short, one paragraph prose poems that readers are most accustomed to, but pieces which can stretch three pages. The poems are arranged chronologically and often read like restless- even disturbed- dream sequences.

Coming back to this book six years later was a completely different experience than the first read. I was charmed mostly by the surface stuff the first time around. However, seeming as it does that I have lived whole lifetimes in the intervening years, I was struck by the quote that opens this article. It seems that this is the point of the collection. It is treated on almost every level: as applying to relationships, the motions of life, even one’s experience with art. Every artist- particularly poets- have experienced this love/ hate, enamorment/ disallusionment in relation to their art. Clark takes a very tough-minded, urban stance toward these things throughout.

The book is packaged well. The cover is dark with an image of what appears to be subway lights or lights in the ceiling of an industrial building. Text on the cover is sparse and in a thin, stretched font. The pages inside are relatively thick and rough to the fingertips, which is appropriate. Sometimes the poems are divided by pages that are totally black, some with that spiny, white writing, some without. The book itself is thus a work of art that reflects what is to be found inside. This is not a collection for those seeking beauty. Rather, it makes poetry out of the sparse, cold, lonesome, dark, ugly.

Ultimately, though, I was disappointed upon returning to it. I could not sense the magic I had felt in it before. But perhaps I was seeking completion, which as Clark said, I have no right to. Maybe the incompleteness, the uncomfortableness is the point. Much as the deliberate unbalancing of the accepted sensibilities was the point of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. It would be too much to say that Music and Suicide is a poetic equivalent to Wilde’s controversial novel, but it could be that was Jeff Clark’s ambition.


Book Review: The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History by Brian Fagan

Book Review: The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History by Brian Fagan

No matter which side of the current Global Warming debate you happen to be on, and especially if you are undecided about the issue, this book is a must-read. It is a short book, only 246 pages, and well illustrated with graphs, charts and maps to help make sense out of the phenomena that literally changed history between 1300 and 1859.

The story is told in the lyrical language of a born novelist, but its message is clear as Fagan demonstrates how climate changes affect food supplies and basic living conditions, and even influences world events.

The book puts the planet’s current climate conditions into perspective by describing those conditions experienced throughout the world over the last thousand years or so. He uses both scientific data gathered from a number of disciplines and anecdotal data drawn from ancient records and contemporary accounts to tell the story of a remarkable period in human history.

Where Fagan needs to express technical terms, he provides excellent explanations of those terms and how they apply to his subject. Even the most technically-challenged reader will be able to follow his discussions. And he provides ample charts and graphs to show general trends in weather patterns and how weather patterns across the planet affect local and regional conditions.

Fagan explains how natural phenomena such as volcanoes and other disasters can affect weather patterns over many years. The role of the sun in our climate may include sunspots (or the lack of them), solar wind activity, and solar radiation fluctuations.

Much of the focus of Fagan’s book details ways in which global warming and cooling trends affect agriculture in various parts of the world, and how the Little Ice Age and the earlier “Medieval Warming Period” contributed to massive starvation and the rise of diseases that decimated Europe and other parts of the world.

Fagan divided his book into four parts. He begins with what historians call the Medieval Warm Period when the ice retreated far to the north and allowed the exploration and settlement of areas near to the North Polar region, such as Greenland and North America. Then, in Part 2, “Cooling Begins,” he describes changes in water temperatures, glaciation, and generally cooler temperatures and the resulting agricultural and trade problems.

In Part Three he discusses the changes in agriculture that enabled the populations of Europe, Asia, and other regions to survive food shortages caused by the extremely cold conditions. These adaptations to the colder climates resulted in development of many of the innovative farming methods still practiced today throughout the world. And in Part Four, “The Modern Warm Period, he shows how population growth, deforestation, and other potentially catastrophic conditions may be leading to a runaway Greenhouse Effect.

The reader should pay particular attention to Fagan’s descriptions of conditions during the various periods of both the Medieval Warming Period and the Little Ice Age. As he points out, weather conditions at the ends of both periods became extremely unsettled, and his descriptions and quotes from contemporary records sound remarkably like some of the conditions we are currently experiencing.

The book contains information that is both frightening and reassuring. It is entirely possible that the earth is now experiencing the climatological upheavals that characterized the changes form the Medieval Warm Period to another Ice Age. And, as Fagan shows, we do not yet understand enough about the causes of global warming to accurately make that judgment.

The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History is published by Basic Books and available through as well as through local booksellers. I recommend that anyone interested in global warming pick up a copy.


What Hollywood’s Missing: Top 3 Books that Should Be Movies

What Hollywood’s Missing: Top 3 Books that Should Be Movies

It seems like nine out of ten movie ideas today come from novels first. Lets face it, it’s good business. The novel sales are boosted when the film comes out, and there’s a built in audience for the movie. But with all the world of fiction at their feet, Hollywood is missing a lot of good possibilities. I’m recommending that instead of adapting the latest Nicholas Sparks book, Hollywood chooses one of these hidden gems:

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

We all knew it would happen someday. Pride and Prejudice sequels have been popular for years, and the current fascination with vampires have finally merged into one. Amanda Grange, known for other Jane Austen related books such as Mr. Darcy’s Diary and Captain Wentworth’s Diary, works over what we know about Darcy.

The reason that Mr. Darcy is so stand-offish and prideful is that he is hiding a secret, and has been for centuries (yes, Grange does explain Wickam’s “growing up” with Darcy). The book is pretty outlandish, but in the pure fun and escapist way that makes it great beach reading. With her success at already playing Elizabeth Bennet once, I say that Kiera Knightly should continue the trend.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

One of my favorite books as a young girl, True Confessions is the tale of a privileged young girl crossing the Atlantic in the 1800s. During the crossing, the sailors mutiny against the cruel Captain. Charlotte is unwillingly drawn into the conflict and is eventually charged with the murder of the captain. Charlotte must grow up quickly, stand up for herself and embrace a life more than her boarding schools have prepared her for.

With the fairly recent success of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the push to have stronger roles for young women, now is the perfect time to make this into a film! It’s got adventure, heart, and a message that isn’t used as a club for the viewer. I think Emma Watson has the right balance of beauty, brains, and acting skill to bring this role to life.

House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski

This is without a doubt one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. It’s wrapped up in three distinct story lines that play off of each other. The main protagonist finds a manuscript of a thesis about a documentary that doesn’t exist. As he becomes obsessed about the manuscript he slowly starts to loose his mind. ONe of the most unique parts of the book is that as Johnny Truant’s mind becomes unhinged, the writing style and even the typescript of the book reflects it (look here for a good example of the crazy typeset and a more in depth review of the book).

While I think it would be incomprehensible to try and film the entire novel, the fictional documentary, The Navidson Report, would make a fascinating movie. It is the story of a family that realized their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Their lives change drastically when one day they wake up with a new door in the living room. What follows is an intense trek through the hidden depths of the house.

In my mind, Viggo Mortensen is perfect for the role of Will Navidson, the owner of the house in question. He’s a brave, sometimes foolhardy man who is so obsessed about the strange happenings in his house that he puts himself, and his family at risk. Mortensen has the emotional depth and the physical stamina to play such a challenging role.

While these gems have not yet been adapted, give it a few years. We’ll see what Hollywood can do.…

Book Review – “Apollo: Through the Eyes of the Astronauts”

Book Review – “Apollo: Through the Eyes of the Astronauts”

Although I don’t really own a coffee table, this is one of those “coffee table books” that I just couldn’t pass by. While there are a great many books on the Apollo space program, the authors took a unique approach with this one and created something truly special. It tells the story of the many people who contributed to Apollo’s achievements through a collection of stunning photographs. Each image is paired with a short commentary by the astronaut who selected it, explaining the significance of that particular moment captured in time. Through this approach, the book manages to give a very personal account of an historic achievement, and really brings home the point why it was such a defining moment in human history for all who witnessed it.

Being an historical account – and a piece of art all in itself – this book is likely to remain on proud display in your living room for many years. I’ve had it on my bookshelf for just about a month now, and its format is so accessible that visitors of all ages (from toddlers to grandparents) can’t help but reach for it and start flipping the large pages. Did I mention it is gorgeous? Because it really is stunning.

One particularly striking aspect that is directly hinted on by the title, is the book’s ability to put you behind the eyes of the astronauts and make you feel like it is you peering out through the gold-tinted visor of that spacesuit. While I suspect nothing can truly replicate the experience of walking another world in person, viewing the panoramic images paired with their first-hand commentary will get you as close as humanly possible. Forget virtual reality – this book contains the soul of the people who were there! It features moments of steely determination as they confronted the terrifying scope of what they had set out to do, all the way to the exuberance and overwhelming pride of accomplishment upon safely returning to humanity’s home after having sailed the vastness of space. It is this special emotional connection which makes this book special and so hard to put away for anybody who opens it.

If I had the resources to do so, I would put this book into the hands of every student who ever felt bored with the pursuit of knowledge, dragging herself through another class of pre-calculus; it would single-handedly be responsible for making science the most popular field of study of this generation – it really is that good.…

Review of Dark Secrets: A Paranormal Noir Anthology

Review of Dark Secrets: A Paranormal Noir Anthology

As a whole, Dark Secrets: A Paranormal Noir Anthology was truly a joy to read! Full of grit, grime and unexpected heroes, it kept me turning the pages. With the price set at $0.99 it is a STEAL. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for some new paranormal authors or wanting some inside information from the stories you already love…this is one you must pick up!

Marion, Missing by Rachel Caine

I was surprised by the setting. It is not very often we take a step back in time to when segregation was law . The surprise ended up being a pleasant one with even more surprises. Not a traditional ghost story, but one that left me with a sense of content. I loved the sense of good vs true evil and man, was her bad guy nasty! It was brutal, sweet and unexpected! I liked it!!

Femme Fatale by Cynthia Eden

A vampire love story with much to offer, Femme Fatale was a fun read. I was quickly swept up with the characters and was surprised with the amount of backstory we learned about Mick and Savannah in such a short time. Fast paced and full of action, I truly enjoyed this story!

Dance with the Devil by Megan Hart

Hmmm. I honestly liked the concept of this story, but didn’t care of the characters. And not just because Kathleen was a hard character to like. The inability of these characters to stand up to the Devil and to continue to do his bidding and self-destruct themselves in the process left me a tad uncomfortable.

The Consort by Suzanne Johnson

Suzanne Johnson writes characters that always seem to just “fit” with me. Always a little quirky and well defined, these are the types of characters that stay with you long after you flip the last page. The Consort was a great story and a deeper look in fae politics for those that follow her New Orleans Sentinels series. Well done and I want more!

Heart’s Blood by Jeffe Kennedy, a Twelve Kingdoms novella

I have read some previous books by Jeffe Kennedy and they have left me with the same kind of feeling as Heart’s Blood. A little bit confused and equally uncomfortable. Pieces of this tale had me cringing inside and it certainly contains some trigger areas. (rape / animal death) The author did sell me in the end. The ending was quite beautiful and did leave me with a good feeling.

The Djinn in the Mirror by Mina Khan, a Djinn World Novella

Khan created a wonderfully detailed and deep story in this short. A great story with wonderful characters. The Djinn in the Mirror held me captive and still left me wanting more. An interesting story about our individual strengths and how we choose what to do with them. Everyone has the potential to be a positive or negative force in their life. This story also had a great dark side to it with Edgar. Learning a bit of his backstory truly made you wish for his destruction!

As an overall rating for the Anthology I am rating it a solid 4/5 Bullets!

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I received this book directly from the author(s) for the purpose of providing an honest review. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.
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Book Review ~ Everybody Wants to Rune the World by Mandy M. Roth

Book Review ~ Everybody Wants to Rune the World by Mandy M. Roth

LOVED! I have been waiting for Sigmund’s book and was not disappointed! I was ummmm… hooked. He has known Virginia is his mate since he first met her. The problem? Oh, he doesn’t think he is good enough for her and he has issues controlling his shifter side. He is a monster… blah… blah… blah. Why are all Alpha males like that? LOL! He still fears his kraken side but events happen that force him to step up to the plate and do what is meant to happen. Oh, don’t forget the curse that is still in play. Yup, the gold coins are back, but can Sigmund and Virginia complete their mating before something kills Virginia? Well, yeah cause there IS an HEA but the journey there is filled with heat and humor.…