Reviews2022-10-31T10:15:37-05:00

Book Reviews

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 [...]

South to America

South to America: A Journey below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation By Imani Perry Ecco / Harper Collins, 2022 Hardcover: $28.99 Genre: Nonfiction; History; Travel Reviewed by Edward Journey Imani Perry’s South to America: A Journey below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation is an important and timely book. I savored most everything about it, but one passage stands out as my favorite: At a dinner, Perry has a conversation with Howell Raines, former executive editor [...]

Something Unbelievable

Something Unbelievable By Maria Kuznetsova Random House, 2021 Hardcover $27.00; Kindle Edition $7.99 Genre: Fiction; Novel Review by Rachel Houghton Maria Kuznetsova’s Something Unbelievable is a multi-faceted tale that spans continents and generations. It is layered with themes of family, grief, loyalty, and identity. The narrative bounces between Larissa, an eighty-year-old matriarch who lives in Kiev, and Natasha, Larissa’s only granddaughter who lives with her husband and new baby in Manhattan. During their weekly Skype dates, Larissa tells Natasha the story of how [...]

Moon over Sasova

Moon over Sasova: One American’s Experience Teaching in Post-Cold War Slovakia By Christopher Shaffer Hellgate Press, 2021 Paperback: $12.95 Genre: Nonfiction; Memoir Reviewed by Edward Journey Since I embrace the concept of “serendipity,” I felt like I had encountered a kindred soul when I read the first sentence of Christopher Shaffer’s engrossing Moon over Sasova: One American’s Experience Teaching in Post-Cold War Slovakia. Shaffer writes, “I owe my Slovakia experience largely to serendipity.” That experience began when Shaffer, an undergraduate at Auburn [...]

Distracted by Alabama

Distracted by Alabama: Tangled Threads of Natural History, Local History, and Folklore By James Seay Brown Jr. The University of Alabama Press; 2022 Hardcover: $39.95; E Book: $39.95 Genre: Nonfiction; Natural History; Folklore Reviewed by Edward Journey Distracted by Alabama: Tangled Threads of Natural History, Local History, and Folklore is James Seay Brown Jr.’s enthusiastic and detailed examination of twelve topics that make Alabama special to him. Along the way, he interviews and profiles a multitude of colorful and exuberant personalities who have [...]

The Southernization of America

The Southernization of America: A Story of Democracy in the Balance By Frye Gaillard and Cynthia Tucker NewSouth Books, 2022 Hardcover, $25.95 Genre: Nonfiction; History Review by Steve Hubbard Like many of us who, in our politics, lean liberal to progressive, journalists Frye Gaillard and Cynthia Tucker often felt anxious during the Trump presidency about the future of American democracy. Evidently, so did Randall Williams, Editor-in-Chief of Montgomery-based NewSouth Books. Williams was thinking about a book, The Americanization of Dixie: The Southernization of America, that [...]

Reparations Now!

Reparations Now! By Ashley M. Jones Hub City Press, 2021 Paperback: $16.00 Genre: Poetry Review by Lisa Hase-Jackson In her latest collection, Reparations Now!, newly appointed Alabama Poet Laureate, Ashley M. Jones, braids the interpersonal with the political to record a family’s legacy within the context of American history, where liberty has always been reserved for specific individuals. It is at once tender and steady as it lays open, like a scrapbook of photographs and postcards, familial relationships and harsh realities that [...]

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