June 15, 2021

“Books for Writers,” An Editorial by Lorraine Martindale

“Books for Writers,” An Editorial by Lorraine Martindale

Books for Writers Though writing is solitary art, it’s also communal, and we all have favorite authors that teach and inspire us. Here’s a list of books I read often to gain deeper understanding how to write and edit my work. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard What is this writing life? Annie Dillard asks. “You climb a long ladder until you can see over the roof, or over the clouds. You are writing a book. You watch your shod feet step on each round rung, one at a time; you do not hurry and do not rest. Your feet feel the steep ladder’s balance; the long muscles in your thighs check its sway. You climb steadily, doing your job in the dark.” Like her celebrated work, Dillard illuminates the writing life with intelligence, humility,…

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April 10, 2021

“A Most Clever Girl,” by Jasmine A. Stirling, A Book Review

“A Most Clever Girl,” by Jasmine A. Stirling, A Book Review

In Jasmine A. Stirling’s debut children’s book, A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice, she paints a kid-friendly portrait of the literary life of Jane Austen. As a rule-breaking and imaginative child, young Jane was to become one of the first female novelists—and a massively successful one at that. A Most Clever Girl highlights Austen’s determination in the face of adversity in a time when a woman writing books was simply preposterous and the only roles women had in literature (“fluff” she calls it) were one-dimensional. Focusing on Austen’s childhood, Stirling implores children to see themselves in the character enthralled in a world of writing stories in her study, performing plays with her large family in their barn and staging dramatic readings of her work. Young readers also learn about finding their…

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March 17, 2021

“Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life,” A Book Review by Lorraine Martindale

“Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life,” A Book Review by Lorraine Martindale

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life is a biography of horror fiction writer Shirley Jackson by Ruth Franklin. My first encounter with Shirley Jackson was reading “The Lottery” in junior high. It was the first story that truly disturbed me; the stoning of an innocent woman was a shock. The culprits were not villains. They were regular people, going about their regular lives in their bucolic village. Jackson was confronting conformity at a time when the individual wasn’t valued. I could have been one of them. I wasn’t the only one implicated. After it was published in The New Yorker in 1948, the magazine received letters calling “The Lottery” “outrageous, “gruesome,” and “utterly pointless.” The New Yorker had never received so much mail in response to a work of fiction. Jackson received letters as well,…

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February 9, 2021

“The Girl on the Train,” A Review by Jennifer Green

“The Girl on the Train,” A Review by Jennifer Green

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins To be totally transparent, this 2015 psychological thriller is not one I would have picked up or sought out on my own. However, as I’m always looking for new books to read and making a conscious effort to expand the genres on my shelf, when a colleague mentioned this page-turner in a recent Zoom meeting, I picked up a copy and dug in. It’s a quick read, and the premise is interesting: struggling alcoholic rides a train into London every day and muses about the inhabitants of the houses along the tracks, two of whom are her ex-husband and his new wife. When she observes suspicious behavior just before a young woman goes missing, the tension rises. However, it’s the narrative perspective that really gives the novel its…

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January 14, 2021

“The Color of Jadeite,” by Eric D. Goodman: A Review

“The Color of Jadeite,” by Eric D. Goodman: A Review

Editor’s Note: Being in the publishing industry, I’m fortunate to regularly meet talented writers and artists. It is sometimes an instant connection and other times a bit of serendipity. In the case of Eric D. Goodman, it was the latter. A year ago, we published a novel excerpt by Eric, called “Traffic Report,” from Setting the Family Free about a horde of animals unleashed on an Ohio town. A few months later, we published a collection of poems by Charles Rammelkamp and I got to chatting with Charles. While looking up his forthcoming novel, Catastroika, I noticed a familiar name. It seems that Eric had written a blurb for a review of Catastroika. Intrigued, I reached out to both authors and found out that they were actually longtime friends from Baltimore! What’s even more interesting…

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December 6, 2020

“Brevity,” A Flash Nonfiction Anthology Book Review

“Brevity,” A Flash Nonfiction Anthology Book Review

When Rose Metal Press asked if I would consider writing a review of a forthcoming book entitled The Best of Brevity, I thought, Why not? I favor brevity. After all, that famous line, “Forgive me for writing you such a long letter, for I didn’t have the time to write a short one,” is one of my favorite [mis]quotations, even if we’re not exactly sure who first wrote it. Was it Montaigne? Cicero? Machiavelli? Pascal? Wilde? Twain? Mencken? Does it matter? So the book arrived and I noted the cover read, “Twenty groundbreaking years of flash nonfiction.” I was intrigued; having written flash fiction for years and years, I was embarrassed to admit I knew little about this genre. But flash nonfiction? Now I wondered, Hmmm, this might be boring. Then I began flipping pages,…

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February 18, 2020

“The Escape to Candyland,” A Review

“The Escape to Candyland,” A Review

In Yong Takahashi’s debut collection of stories, The Escape to Candyland, the main character is dilemma.  That’s the featured role in this series of recursive, interwoven stories: the human heart in conflict with itself.  Takahashi’s protagonists labor under myth-like predestination and curse; they are often tortured by the knowledge of what ails them, compounded by the inability or unwillingness to overcome it.  Hence dilemma.  Very few suffer in ignorance – most of the men and women in these stories know they are beset by a personal menace (an abusive husband, guilt over a brother’s death, an obsessive-compulsive mother), and many understand that their deliverance lies in plain sight, but who among them can seize it and afford to lose a pillar of their identity – past trauma.  Perhaps, then, the apt word to describe each member of…

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October 6, 2019

“Evidence of V” a Novel by Sheila O’Connor

“Evidence of V” a Novel by Sheila O’Connor

Reviewed by Honorah Creagh In her novel Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions, Sheila O’Connor pieces together the true story of her maternal grandmother, V, a woman whose existence was a family secret. O’Connor’s mother, June, was adopted by V’s sister, and O’Connor did not know about V until she was sixteen years old. Working from incomplete information, O’Connor colors in the spaces between the facts, transforming V from a name on court documents into an effervescent, audacious girl. In the process, O’Connor tells an affecting story not just about the injustices V and other young women like her suffered, but about what it means for someone to be family, and how a person’s influence reaches through generations. In 1935, fifteen-year-old V lives in Minneapolis and spends her nights singing at…

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June 27, 2019

“The Age of Light” – Reprising Our Interview with First-Time (And Very Successful!) Author Whitney Scharer

“The Age of Light” – Reprising Our Interview with  First-Time (And Very Successful!) Author Whitney Scharer

A little over a year ago, we published an interview with Whitney Scharer, whose novel had landed her a million-dollar book deal. Only problem was, we had to wait another year to read her book. At the time, we wrote: “Barista Rachael Allen meets the novelist everyone will be talking about. Whitney Scharer and her fierce protagonist are set to take the literary world by storm! At this time next year, Whitney Scharer’s debut novel, The Age of Light, will stare up at you from your nightstand. The book will not stare at you so much as, potentially, display a woman staring into the distance, anonymously cropped at the neck, with scenic Paris blurred behind her. As much as she hopes for something different, Scharer says wryly, audiences are familiar with this kind of book…

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June 1, 2019

Charming Indie Bookstores of Brooklyn

Charming Indie Bookstores of Brooklyn

By Simran P. Gupta Living in an “outer borough” of New York City has made me appreciative of what lies beyond the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. While many of the best-known NYC bookstores are on the island, there are a number of hidden gems that warrant a subway ride across the river to Brooklyn. While it’s true that certain neighborhoods are facing waves of gentrification, the borough as a whole has held on to its roots. That is to say, community spaces still reign supreme. And of course, at the heart of it are its independent bookstores. Molasses Books             Specializing in secondhand books only, visitors will immediately feel relaxed and at home at Molasses. It’s easy to miss from the outside, tucked away as it is on a quiet street between two busy…

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