Category: Book Review (Page 2 of 6)

Book Review: Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera

by Daniela Z. Montes

In a time filled with terms like “fake news,” when it can be hard to tell what’s true, Liliam Rivera’s Dealing in Dreams reminds us to be aware of the rhetoric that shapes our society and to be mindful of its effect on us.

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Book Review: The Flight Portfolio

by: Rachel Zarrow

How do you assign a price to a human life? Are some lives worth more than others? In a world that is on the verge of collapse, do the rules of the living apply? In her second novel, The Flight Portfolio, Julie Orringer explores these questions.

The Flight Portfolio is a riveting fictional story of a real person, Varian Fry. In the novel, Varian, an American journalist, works for the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) evacuating artists and intellectuals from Europe during the second World War.

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Book Review: Sing to It by Amy Hempel

By David Holloway

Sing to It: New Stories is the first new work from Amy Hempel in a decade.

The first thing to notice in this collection is the variety of story lengths and tempos. Of the fifteen stories in Sing to It, ten are less than two pages long. Modest of plot, names and setting, the title story is only one page long. But “Cloudland,” the last in the collection—more a novella than a story—runs for sixty-two pages. The reader might imagine the briefer stories to be a sign of the times, a nod to flash fiction. But it’s more likely to be a choice of substance, not form, from a genius of succinct narrative. Throughout this collection, and especially in these shortest pieces, the haiku-like prose is condensed and concentrated. Intense and sparse, there is a bleached and stripped quality to Hempel’s writing. Her narrators, reluctant to yield up their secrets, force us to read between the lines. The reader is left, generally, with a lot of work to do.

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Book Review: Norco ’80 by Peter Houlahan

By David M. Olsen

We just got our asses kicked, didn’t we?” Deputy Andy Delgado says to Deputy Rolf Parkes while in the hospital after an eye surgery to remove bullet shrapnel. This exchange, found in the new book Norco 80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History by Peter Houlahan, captures the sentiments universally shared by the police after their forces were eviscerated by five masked and heavily armed men in the wake of a botched bank robbery in Norco, California in 1980. Norco is an expertly rendered accounting of these events that reads like a crime thriller and courtroom drama, with all the brutal gravity of a true story. This is true crime at its best.

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Attending a Reading: Jamel Brinkley’s “A Lucky Man”

By AM Larks

It is almost 11:45 a.m. on a rare sunny day in Berkeley and instead of being outside, I am sitting in the basement lecture hall of Berkeley City College that smells vaguely of feet. My cell phone doesn’t get reception, so I cannot distract myself from my impatience and anxiety. I am anxious because I want to like this panel of authors, because I deeply respect the moderator, and because I need something to write about, to tie into, my review of Jamel Brinkley’s collection A Lucky Man.

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Book Review: Things You Won’t Tell Your Therapist, by Colleen Kearney Rich

By: Felicity Landa

Things You Won’t Tell Your Therapist might appear at first glance as a simple collection of flash fiction, but the breadth of emotion that Colleen Kearney Rich has achieved in her stories is something to be admired. Writers often shy from flash as one of the more difficult formats to capture depth, but Rich runs full force into the form. Rich’s language is cut to the bones, but her details are visceral and real. She steers the reader through her characters’ anxieties, while reminding us of our own. The stories in Rich’s collection are fierce in their simplicity, stolen moments of seemingly quiet lives

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The White Card by Claudia Rankine – A Conversational Review

By: AM Larks & AE Santana

Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, two plays, numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies. Rankine has won the PEN Open Book Award and the PEN Literary Award, the NAACP Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, and was a finalist for the National Book Award for her book Citizen. Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts, in addition to other honors and awards.

The White Card by Claudia Rankine is two-scene play that features one black character, Charlotte Cummings, a Yale MFA graduate and a highly successful contemporary artist; and four white characters: Charles Hamilton Spencer, a “well-respected philanthropist” and “lover of contemporary art,” his wife Virginia Compton Spencer, the Spencers’ son Alex Compton-Spencer, an activist who is “deeply involved in current American politics,” and Eric Schmidt, the Spencers’ trusted art dealer. The Spencers invite Charlotte over to dinner in an attempt to convince her to sell her art to them.

The Coachella Review contributors A.E. Santana and A.M. Larks reviewed this play in an interview style with questions, responses, and replies in order to capture the conversation that theater, and specifically The White Card, is meant to evoke.

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Book Review: What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About, by Michele Filgate

By Nathania Seales Oh

 

What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About goes beyond the catchy title and delivers a visceral account of maternal relationships that span from childhood memory to adult reckoning. Michele Filgate curates a touching anthology with authors who are not only authentic but often unforgiving as they examine the role their mothers play or have played in their lives. They dissect the mother-and-child dynamic as it currently exists or as expired, while searching for the truth. Stories range from hysterical to heartbreaking, all the while transcending social, cultural, and economic boundaries. Each essay is both unique and universal in detailing the writers’ desire to be loved and understood, just as they also yearn to understand their mothers. They resolve to see their moms as real people—flawed and beautiful, hated and loved.

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Book Review: Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

By Lindsay Jamieson

New York Times best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson departs from her beloved YA fiction with Shout, her brilliant new memoir written in verse.

Shout, published in March, 2019, marks the twentieth anniversary of Anderson’s groundbreaking novel, Speak, which told the story of Melinda, a 13-year-old who stops speaking after she’s raped. With Shout, Anderson opens a window into the personal experiences that gave her the insight, empathy, and emotion to conjure Melinda, a protagonist who, as she reveals in Shout, has become a hero (and a moniker) for survivors—men and women—of sexual assault. Anderson, like Melinda, was also raped at 13, and she is an ardent believer that words—spoken, shouted, and written—offer a “bridge to escape” the shame. As the last line of the introduction states: “This is the story of a girl who lost her voice and wrote herself a new one.”

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Book Review: The Houseguest, by Amparo Dávila

By AM Larks

The Houseguest by Amparo Dávila, translated by Audrey Harris & Matthew Gleeson, is a collection of stories so haunting and so tinged with the surreal that it reminds the reader of the pleasure of being scared. Dávila, whose stories feel both timeless and timely, accomplishes this distress by blending well-known horror tropes with real-world details.

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