Book List

Kirkus Indie Best Books of the Month- October 2016

A delightful compilation by a poet who has much to offer.

Infinity Minus One

POEMS

In this poetry collection, Snyder (Tending the Light, 2015) invites willing readers in with poignant commentaries on life, death, and fatherhood, among other topics.

Poetry is meant to make readers see the world through a different set of eyes, to brush aside the veil of everyday life and allow them to contemplate things from a fresh perspective. The best poets, however, offer more: they offer an alternate consciousness. Snyder’s collection does just that, lending his readers an awareness of life as he understands it in pleasing and accessible language. These poems range in scope from simple modern haiku (“morning dew / in the teacups we left / by the campfire”) to soliloquies on the nature of time: “Time is a tightrope / stretched between the poles / of wanting and not wanting.” There are intimate elegies, such as “For Kathy,” which celebrates a life of love in a short poem graced by Wordsworth-ian simplicity. This collection is varied in its subjects, as demonstrated by the poet’s poignant reflections on illness and disability (“Love Letter to My Left Hand,” “Should Things Become Blurred”) as well as death itself (“Different Advice on Death,” “Mr. Death”). He moves from the personal (“Lux Perpetua: four octets for my son” and “When He Was Twelve”) to the religious and mythological in “Ikaros,” “The Remembered Thorn,” and “Shakyamuni’s Road.” Existential questions appear in poems such as “The Hand,” tempting the reader to stop and contemplate them: “What will we do then / with the unlived parts of our lives? / The hand can hold / only so much.” The explanatory notes at the end aren’t necessary for readers to understand and appreciate the poems, but they show Snyder’s consideration of the reader—a trait that’s all too rare among contemporary poets. 

A delightful compilation by a poet who has much to offer.

Pub Date: June 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5236-0344-2

Page Count: 114

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

Energetic stories unveil limitless possibilities always within reach.

Maybe Mermaids & Robots are Lonely

STORIES AND A NOVELLA

A collection offers tales populated by families, lovers, and pariahs who brave worlds both real and illusory.

There’s a sense of aspiration throughout this book, stamped on the opening title story. It fuses the otherworldly with the familiar, the mermaid and robot who can hope for enduring love just like humans. Characters in subsequent stories achieve the seemingly impossible: an Elvis fan transforms into the King in his parents’ basement in “Cardboard Graceland,” and according to “Extinction Event,” dinosaurs may have set up civilization elsewhere. Others simply defy expectations. The law firm’s new hulking, pungent temp in “Bigfoot’s Overcoat,” for example, becomes a hub for everyone’s secrets. Likewise, in the novella The Dead Dream of Being Undead, a family perseveres despite fires destroying the neighborhood and the oldest brother leaving to help secure a zombie quarantine in Muncie, Indiana. Intermittent signs of creatures or sci-fi touches are undoubtedly metaphorical, but these elements are just as edifying when taken literally. The Snow Man in “A Monster for Always,” for one, terrifies adults who don’t know him but delights as a mere companion for siblings Sean and Meghan, who let him stay in their shed. In “Rollo is Rollo,” a guy allegedly abducted by aliens that reject him pre-probing certainly meshes with a fractured connection to his estranged brother, the narrator. The incident also defines the supposed victim’s nature: someone who’d rename himself monthly would probably manufacture an abduction account. Even a straightforward, albeit beautiful tale such as “Plain Burial” subverts convention. In it, Sam’s beloved dog, Bentley, dies while they’re on the road, but the man refuses to bury his companion so far from home, wanting him close in mind and body. Most of Fogarty’s (Kill TV, 2014) stories are noticeably short but compact, not wasting a single sentence; the solitary-paragraph “We Are Swimmers” begins: “Something got stirred up between us here at the bottom of this great lake.” They’re snippets of people’s lives, akin to glances out the window of a passing train. And that’s the essence of the collection: the reader is an observer of a vast universe that, like the closing “Outline of the Moon,” is recognizable, even if unexplored.

Energetic stories unveil limitless possibilities always within reach.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Stillhouse Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

An enticing and accessible introduction to the human body that should work as a read-aloud for classrooms introducing...

You're Amazing! (Starring You)

Louie the Lumin and his two young friends explain some of the human body’s magnificent highlights in this Seussian rhyming book.

Green-furred Louie addresses the reader to explain the book’s purpose: “And although it’s wrapped up in some big fancy phrasing, / Its message, quite simply, is you are amazing!” In this volume by debut author Pichora with Dr. Seuss–homage illustrations from Motz (There’s A Fly On My Head, 2016, etc.), Louie introduces his friends Joanie, a pink-furred Lumin, and blue-furred Leo. The two youngsters help describe all the parts of the body that make it so astonishing, starting with the five senses. After that brief mention, they move on to an ode to feet (and some vivid facial expressions from the Who-like Lumins), legs, and hands, before peering inside the body. Joanie, Leo, and Louie take turns meeting each other’s organs—strangely animated characters that roughly look like body parts. Stomach dresses like a plumber and explains: “Sometimes it’s messy, and toxins get through, / But I try to get most of that out with your poo.” Liver is depicted as a chemist responsible for sorting out everything that’s good and bad in the digestive system and getting it to the right places. Heart, a fitness expert, describes the nonstop workout of the circulatory system before introducing the lungs, a pair of office workers who beg readers, “Please, please, please, please promise don’t ever smoke!” But what sets Lumins apart from other animals are their brains and the smarts that make it possible to build cities and “send robots to Mars” and other miraculous feats. The wonderful rhymes scan beautifully, making this a delight for reading aloud despite the densely packed text and “fancy phrasing” warned about in the introduction. Though the background images are sparse to accommodate the text, the colorful characters and settings accurately capture the whimsy of Dr. Seuss’ work without undermining the biology hidden in the charming rhymes. The captivating lessons include: “So for all of your talents, / I think that you’ll find, // That the best one of all / is your Brilliant mind!”

An enticing and accessible introduction to the human body that should work as a read-aloud for classrooms introducing biology and health tips or for strong independent readers who are fans of Dr. Seuss.

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-9105-4

Page Count: 44

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

An invaluable illumination of small acts of astonishing bravery and generosity in the darkest days of war.

Part of the Family

CHRISTADELPHIANS, THE KINDERTRANSPORT, AND RESCUE FROM THE HOLOCAUST

A compassionate, detailed account of a little-known corner of World War II history.

The triggering incident of Hensley’s gripping debut work is Kristallnacht, the infamous anti-Jewish pogrom conducted in November 1938 in Germany, ostensibly in retaliation for the alleged murder of a low-ranking German diplomat by a Jewish boy. Nazi officials and mobs shattered shop windows, rousted hundreds from their homes, and later rounded up tens of thousands and sent them to concentration camps. The inciting incident made it impossible for the international community to continue to ignore the Nazi persecution of German Jews, and one outcome was a program called “Kindertransport,” in which German Jewish parents sent thousands of children to live with foster families in England. Approximately 250 children found themselves in the homes of Christadelphians, members of a small Christian sect whose philanthropy toward European Jews was of long standing. Hensley’s historical narrative centers on 10 kids and relates their stories in exhaustively researched detail. He also relates the equally touching tales of their parents, who made unthinkable sacrifices for the chance of giving their children futures. One set of parents, for example, sent a note to the foster parents: “You, as gentle people, will understand what it means to send beloved children into a strange world. How much pain and tears are in this.” Hensley effectively tells of the many displaced children, who knew neither the language nor the ways of their new homes and who almost invariably ended up being the only surviving members of their biological families. The author conducted extensive interviews with the Jewish survivors and the Christadelphians who took them in, and he accompanies this invaluable oral history with black-and-white photos that help to bring the stories to life and give them personal immediacy. Overall, this book lays out its history, and especially its Christadelphian aspects, with carefully controlled dramatic energy.

An invaluable illumination of small acts of astonishing bravery and generosity in the darkest days of war.

Pub Date: May 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5327-4053-4

Page Count: 422

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

This bracing, complex tale pits a fantasy-world version of the Victorian British Empire against a sorcerer-dictator out of...

Gedlund

From the Tales of the Verin Empire series , Vol. 1

Ordinary human soldiers face supernatural foes in this first installment of a fantasy series.

Ray’s fiction debut stars a young man named Tammen Gilmot, a private first class in the Dragon Company of the 37th regiment in service to the Verin Empire, sent to the far-flung province of Rakhasin. Tammen is new to the service, having only recently taken the Queen’s Coin and shipped out to the frontier. He joins the unit of a legendary commander, Capt. Hoskaaner, known as the Statue Man, who initially seems like an ageless holdover from the old days when Elves still intermingled with human empires. As one seasoned soldier complacently informs Tammen: “You can’t expect things to be orderly where there’s wyrding involved.” The disappearance of the Elves has left a power imbalance that’s allowed the kingdom of Gedlund, led by an immortal witch king named Thyesten, to flourish and threaten the Verin Empire with supernatural forces such as weaponized sorcery and goblin shock troops. Early on, Tammen faces the fierce goblins (“Though he’d read of them, seen sketches in books, and even caricatures in the paper, none of that left him quite prepared for his first sight of the goblin warriors. They were much shorter than men, but their hunched run gave him little sense of size as they darted through the waving grass. Their broad olive faces were streaked in white paint”). This promising first volume mainly tells the story of Tammen’s coming-of-age as both a young man and a soldier. Ray shifts easily among scenes of campfire camaraderie and well-executed action sequences in which the Verin rifles, artillery, and bayonets go up against the swords and sorcery of their Rakhasin enemies and others. Tammen, ostracized for much of his youth because of his intellect and formal education, finds in Dragon Company unexpected friendships under fire, and his newcomer status on the frontier gives Ray a ready-made vehicle for introducing readers to the refreshingly intricate back stories of Gedlund, Verin, and the magic wars that have grown in ferocity since the departure of the Elves from the world. The book’s dialogue crackles with authenticity, its characters are unfailingly well-drawn, and although its pacing can be uneven at times, its complicated systems—political and magical—are satisfyingly multilayered.

This bracing, complex tale pits a fantasy-world version of the Victorian British Empire against a sorcerer-dictator out of The Lord of the Rings.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 493

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

Young readers who love to pretend will see Gracie as a kindred spirit and look forward to future seasonal adventures in this...

The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear

SUMMER

A girl and her dog rescue pretend dinosaurs, aliens, and whales in this debut ode to imaginative play by O’Kelly with illustrations by Farrell.

Young Gracie wakes her dog, MonkeyBear, in the morning and makes plans for a “perfect day for an adventure.” MonkeyBear is clearly a genius: his room features posters of Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, and the Parthenon, as well as a bookshelf with titles on string theory and wormhole physics among other, more immediately useful subjects. Gracie’s enthusiasm is contagious, and together she and MonkeyBear begin their first mission: excavating a mystery in their backyard. There, they find a living but stuck Tyrannosaurus rex, cleverly revealed in a two-page spread that requires readers to turn the book sideways. Gracie and MonkeyBear quickly offer to get the dinosaur out and give it directions back home. Later, the girl and her dog are startled to see a Voosurian starship that appears to be crashing. Luckily, they both speak Voosurian, a cleverly phonetic language with lots of “OO” sounds that kids will enjoy sounding out, and MonkeyBear even has a helpful ship-repair manual (“ROOF [I will go and get it],” the dog says). After designing a slingshot launcher to get their friend home, Gracie and MonkeyBear begin their third adventure, involving a whale. In this fantastic book, O’Kelly deftly manages the transitions from one adventure to the next, and Farrell’s inventive, entertaining images capture the whimsy and delight of imagination. In particular, Gracie’s costume changes—a paleontologist’s fedora and leather jacket, a starship mechanic’s purple jumpsuit, and wet suit and cap to rescue the whale—suit each of her missions perfectly. Also, in the various color illustrations, Gracie’s skin tone is ambiguous, making it possible for young readers of many ethnicities to see themselves in her.

Young readers who love to pretend will see Gracie as a kindred spirit and look forward to future seasonal adventures in this planned kids’ book series.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 36

Publisher: MonkeyBear Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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