Book Reviews

Fables and Stories: Tales from an Alabama Troubadour

By Rick CarterPrairie Eden Music, 2021$25, Paper; $9.99, KendleReviewed by Danny GambleAnyone who has spent any time in the Wooden Nickel in Birmingham, The War Eagle Supper Club in Auburn, the Flora-Bama on the Gulf Coast, or any one of numerous music festivals and beer joints throughout the Southeast and beyond knows the name Rick Carter, or if not, they certainly know his music. Whether performing with Telluride, Rollin’ in the Hay, or Franky Velvet and the Mighty Veltones, Carter and [...]

Twilight of the Confederacy: The Alabama Corps of Cadets and the Burning of the University of Alabama

By Terry BarkleyBlue Rooster Press; 2022Paperback: $19.95Genre: Civil War HistoryReviewed by Edward JourneyWriter Terry Barkley fires the opening volley in his compact military history, Twilight of the Confederacy: The Alabama Corps of Cadets and the Burning of the University of Alabama, charging that the University of Alabama “is playing down or hiding its Confederate heritage.” He argues that, contrary to contemporary trends, the University of Alabama’s Civil War story is one “that needs to be told.”After airing his concerns in the [...]

Ancient Life in Alabama: The Fossils, the Finders & Why it Matters

By William G. DeutschMindbridge Press, 2022Hardcover: $32Genre: NonfictionReviewed by Jim BufordPreorder here Dr. Bill Deutsch, a retired researcher and educator at Auburn University, has followed up his acclaimed first book, Alabama Rivers, with a new book entitled Ancient Life in Alabama: The Fossils, the Finders & Why It Matters.Alabama has fossil-bearing rocks from the Cambrian Period to the more recent past when the world we know now was beginning to emerge, a timeframe spanning approximately 500 million years, i.e., “deep time.” Note [...]

Of Mules and Mud: The Story of Alabama Folk Potter Jerry Brown

By Jerry Brown, edited and with an introduction by Joey BracknerThe University of Alabama Press; 2022Paperback: $22.95Genre: Folk Art / Alabama / BiographyReviewed by Edward JourneyAnyone who had the opportunity to hear traditional pottery artist Jerry Brown hold forth at the Kentuck Arts and Crafts Festival, or other regional and national arts and crafts events (including the Jerry Brown Arts festival in Hamilton, Alabama), knows that nobody could tell Jerry Brown’s compelling story as well as Jerry Brown himself. Brown left [...]

An Art, A Craft, A Mystery: A Novel in Poetry

By Laura SecordLivingston Press, 2022Paperback, $18,95Genre: PoetryReviewed by Lisa Hase-JacksonAn Art, a Craft, a Mystery by Birmingham Poet Laureate Laura Secord, aka Mojo Mama, is an immersive narrative chronicling the lives of Secord’s ancestors Lydea and Kate Gilbert between the years 1636 and 1669. Told in tandem from each woman’s point of view, poems in this debut collection describe with historic accuracy an epic and engrossing story of hardships from America’s early beginnings.The first poem in the collection, a sonnet, captures [...]

Plain Air: Sketches from Winesburg, Indiana

By Michael MartoneBaobab Press, 2022Paperback, $ 16.95Genre: Short FictionReviewed by Don NobleIn 1919 Sherwood Anderson published his collection of loosely connected stories Winesburg, Ohio and it became, almost instantly, an American classic. Anderson wrote 22 short stories, each about a citizen of his fictional Winesburg. At that time the small town was held in nearly religious awe. There were front yards with big oak trees, and a swing and a freckle-faced lad: an Eden.Not so, said Anderson. In Winesburg, the characters [...]

Night Burial

By Kate Bolton Bonnici The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University, 2020 Paperback: $16.95 Genre: Poetry Reviewed by Bee Baldwin In her deeply moving and award-winning book of poetry, Night Burial, Alabama native Kate Bolton Bonnici depicts a daughter’s loss of her mother to cancer and offers an intimate shared experience of the grieving journey. Within the pages of Night Burial, interwoven are the themes of motherhood, daughterhood, and the complexities and suffering of the female body. Through her [...]


By Lauren Goodwin Slaughter Panhandler Books Paperback, $15.95 Genre – Poetry Reviewed by: H. M. Cotton The word spectacle summons to mind the timeless directive from our elders, “don’t make a spectacle of yourself.” The word carries a lot of weight and is both a striking and fitting title for Lauren Goodwin Slaughter’s newest poetry collection. Right away, Slaughter welcomes us to Spectacle with a visit to the Chicago Botanic Gardens where the notable Alice the Corpse Flower (featured on the [...]

Bad Day on the Bayou

By Mark Johnson Down and Out Books, 2022 Paper: $18.95 Reviewed by Don Noble After 23 years as an executive with the United Way, Mark Johnson got sick of it all—the meetings, fundraisers—and lost faith in whether it was all doing much good or making a difference. He took the bold step of quitting that job and becoming a police officer in Mobile. His six years in patrol and six as a detective, in some of the worst neighborhoods, were filled [...]

Salleyland: Wildlife adventures in Swamps, Sandhills, and Forests

By Whit Gibbons The University of Alabama Press; 2023 Paperback: $22.95; eBook: $22.95 Genre: Natural History / Outdoor Recreation Reviewed by Edward Journey In the prologue to his recent book, Salleyland: Wildlife Adventures in Swamps, Sandhills, and Forests, naturalist Whit Gibbons states, “This book does not come close to being a memoir, nor is it intended to be.” That prefatory statement might serve as a warning to any reader not fully invested in the rigorous amateur surveys of our natural environments [...]

Penelope in Repose

By Ken Autrey Evening Street Press; 2022 Paperback: $12.00 Genre: Poetry Reviewed by Edward Journey If an individual’s life on Earth doesn’t completely end until the last memory the world has of them has faded away, poet Ken Autrey has helped to extend the immortality of his sister-in-law, Penelope Debes, in the contemplative poetry of Penelope in Repose, the winner of the 2021 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize. Penelope in Repose is Autrey’s fourth published chapbook. An emeritus professor of English at [...]

The Oracle House: Poems 2018 – 2021

By Jake Berry7 Points Press, 2022Paperback: $10Genre: PoetryReviewed by Hank LazerJake Berry is one of Alabama’s finest poets. Much admired by West Coast poets Michael McClure and Jack Foley, Jake Berry remains somewhat underappreciated in his home state. A superb musician and songwriter (his twelfth album appeared in 2018) and an excellent visual artist, Berry may be best known for his ongoing long poem Brambu Drezi – a visionary epic encompassing a range of spiritual and mythic traditions. His latest book [...]

More than Peanuts: The Unlikely Partnership of Tom Huston and George Washington Carver

By Edith Powell NewSouth Books / University of Georgia Press; 2022 Paperback: $23.95 Genre: History Reviewed by Edward Journey As a kid in Birmingham in the 1960s, I would ride my bike to Baker’s, a tiny candy store in the neighborhood, and spend part of my allowance on Sweet Tarts, Lemonheads, Atomic FireBalls, and candy bars. I’d usually grab a sleeve or two of Tom’s Toasted Peanuts and a Coke to pour them in. In that decade after Brown v. Board [...]

Does the Wind Worry? Frame Poems

By Augustus Merrill Leonardo Guerra Books, 2022 Paperback: $10.80 Genre: Poetry Review by Ken Autrey Augustus Merrill’s first full-length collection is a series of what he calls “frame poems.” Each consists of a brief prose passage followed by a lined poem, most of them occupying a single page. In an introductory note, Merrill states, “The prose passages that precede the lined verse are intended as a logical or associational frame to give context to the poem and make the lined verse [...]

The Gold-Plated Scarab & Other Stories

The Gold-Plated Scarab &Other Stories By Norman McMillan GreyWalk Books; 2022 Paperback: $16.00 Genre: Short Fiction Reviewed by Edward Journey In Norman McMillan’s short story “The Waiting Room,” a man named Ted sits in an outpatient surgery waiting room while his wife undergoes a procedure. He is trying to take notes on Alexander Pope’s poem “An Essay on Man” in preparation for a class the next day. Ultimately, Pope can wait as Ted spends the time observing the diverse cast of [...]

The Last Checkmate

By Gabriella Saab William Morrow, 2021 Paperback $16.99, Kindle Edition $11.99 Genre: Historical Fiction Review by Brianna Carnley Gabriella Saab’s The Last Checkmate opens in April 1945. An escaped prisoner from Auschwitz, Maria Florkowska, returns to the cold camp to battle the camp’s former deputy in a final chess match. The first few lines immediately set the tone of the novel: “Three months ago, I escaped the prison that held my body, but I haven’t found freedom from the one that holds my soul. [...]

It Falls Gently All Around and Other Stories

By Ramona Reeves University of Pittsburgh Press; 2022 Cloth: $23.00 Genre: Short Fiction Reviewed by Edward Journey It Falls Gently All Around and Other Stories is the triumphant debut collection of short fiction by Ramona Reeves. These eleven intertwined stories, featuring denizens of Mobile, Alabama, beckon us to consider a world of flawed and damaged people trying to do their best in stories that are sometimes as gritty as an oyster shell parking lot. The roads to redemption are tricky and full of hazards, [...]

Afternoons with Harper Lee

By Wayne Flynt NewSouth/University of Georgia Press, 2022 Hardcover: $24.95 Genre: Biography/Autobiography Reviewed by Jim Buford Thanks to Opelika-Auburn News for permission to reprint this review. I have long been an admirer of Auburn University historian Wayne Flynt’s work, and with his incisive biography of Nelle Harper Lee, he has outdone himself. His prose is described by Patti Callahan Henry as flowing “gracefully as the rivers of Alabama, clear and lyrical” and he is called “the great Talmudic scholar of Alabama” by Diane [...]

Promise of the Pelican

By Roy Hoffman Arcade, 2022 Hardcover: $27.00 Genre: Fiction; Literary Crime Fiction Review by Laura Platas-Scott In Roy Hoffman’s The Promise of the Pelican, a murder may be central to the story, but this literary crime novel is more about richly diverse characters than the crime itself. It gripped me from beginning to end. Hank Weinberg is eighty-three years old, a retired criminal defense attorney, who starts his mornings at the Fairhope Fishing Pier, casting his net, chatting with friends, then [...]

Reckless Girls

By Rachel Hawkins St. Martin’s Press, 2022 Hardcover: $27.99 312 pages Genre: Fiction, Mystery Review by Linda Henry Dean The title Reckless Girls blazes boldly across the flower-splashed bright yellow book jacket, as carefree as a tropical shirt. The jacket promises, “Six stunning twentysomethings are about to embark on a blissful, free-spirited journey—one filled with sun-drenched days and intoxicating nights.” But readers expecting the light fare of a “beach read” in which romantic relationships among two men and four women get [...]

Yazoo Clay

By Schuyler Dickson Livingston Press; 2022 Paperback: $18.95 Genre: Short Fiction Reviewed by Edward Journey   Yazoo Clay, the first story collection by Schuyler Dickson, features discrete variations of narrative style, structure, and voice. The best of these eleven stories haunt the imagination long after the page is turned while others require abundant patience and indulgence on the part of the reader. These stories are about characters on the edge – sometimes literally – and it is to the writer’s credit [...]

Don’t Blow Yourself Up

Don’t Blow Yourself Up: The Further True Adventures and Travails of the Rocket Boy of October Sky By Homer Hickam Post Hill Press, 2021 Hardcover: $27.00 Genre: Memoir By Edward Journey I suppose author Homer Hickam has earned a degree of braggadocio after a life of risk and accomplishment, and it is on full display in his memoir, Don’t Blow Yourself Up: The Further True Adventures and Travails of the Rocket Boy of October Sky. Hickam is, of course, the author of the best-selling [...]

The Treasure of Moonlight Ridge

By Ramey Channell St. Leonard’s Field, 2021 Paperback $12.95, Kindle Edition $1.99 Genre: Southern Fiction Reviewed by Meridith Beretta Ramey Channell is a rural-raised and rural-grown Alabama poet and fiction writer whose latest book is The Treasure of Moonlight Ridge. As the third installment of Channell’s Moonlight Ridge Series, followers of the tales are well acquainted with Channell’s protagonist, Lily C. Nash, and her cousin Willie T. Nock, along with their shenanigans in the small Alabama town of Eden—well east of Eden—where our fictional [...]

The Attention of a Traveller

The Attention of a Traveller: Essays on william bartram's "Travels" and Legacy Edited by Kathryn H. Braund University of Alabama Press, 2022 Hardcover: $54.95; Kindle: $52.20 Genre: Nonfiction; Nature Writing; Essays Review by Jace Rose Malmquist Each writer follows their fancies, and in this collection, fourteen authors examine John Bartram’s life, person, and work, visiting him with unique perspectives and focal points and leaving their time with him with nuanced ideas about who he was, as well as complex moral views [...]


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