Triumphantly mordant and transporting poems.

DREAMT

OR THE LINGERING PHANTOMS OF EQUINOX

This collection of poetry may be founded on a series of playful dreams, but its message of protest offers a rousingly powerful wake-up call.

This second volume of poetry by Salinas is divided into two sections. The first and longer of the two is entitled “Sleeping” while the second is called “Woken.” Many of the poems found in the first section delve into whimsical, dreamlike scenarios. In “Cat,” he muses: “I dreamt I was a snow-white cat who / Owned Haruki Murakami.” The deliciously absurd piece describes the poet as a cat master, demanding that felines be featured in all of Murakami’s books in exchange for food and shelter. In the equally absurd “Smoke,” Salinas writes: “I dreamt I was a cigarette,” followed later by “I begged Ayn / Rand to light me up.” The poem is rendered darker by the knowledge that Rand, a heavy smoker, contracted lung cancer. The mercurial nature of Salinas’ poetry will leave readers uneasy and uncertain of where he will take them next but beguiled all the same. His writing sometimes shoots from the hip. In a poem called “Native,” he references sexual harassment accusations against the Native American novelist Sherman Alexie, asserting controversially: “You allowed your pendulous / Totem pole to carve the path, and now all / Our efforts are shattered.” Yet when addressing the death of George Floyd in “Breathe,” the poet’s tone is tender, although tempered with rage: “My brother, / My beauty, / I can’t breathe / When I hold back the / Black rain.” Alternatively, “Whistling Dixie on Trump Tower one fine January morning” channels Salinas' disdain via an erasure poem shrewdly crafted by omitting selected words from Donald Trump’s 2017 presidential inauguration speech—part of which reads threateningly: “I will fight you / never, ever let you / start winning again.” Other pieces are marked by the poet’s expressive wordplay; in “Serpentine Situation,” gridlock on the interstate is described delightfully as “Aggro jazz of / Chrysalis lives, / Some in Chryslers.” This outstanding collection goes where it likes, often to places some readers may not wish to follow. Those who do will not experience a dull moment.

Triumphantly mordant and transporting poems.

Pub Date: July 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-912017-19-5

Page Count: 77

Publisher: Hekate Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.

HORSE

A long-lost painting sets in motion a plot intertwining the odyssey of a famed 19th-century thoroughbred and his trainer with the 21st-century rediscovery of the horse’s portrait.

In 2019, Nigerian American Georgetown graduate student Theo plucks a dingy canvas from a neighbor’s trash and gets an assignment from Smithsonian magazine to write about it. That puts him in touch with Jess, the Smithsonian’s “expert in skulls and bones,” who happens to be examining the same horse's skeleton, which is in the museum's collection. (Theo and Jess first meet when she sees him unlocking an expensive bike identical to hers and implies he’s trying to steal it—before he points hers out further down the same rack.) The horse is Lexington, “the greatest racing stallion in American turf history,” nurtured and trained from birth by Jarret, an enslaved man who negotiates with this extraordinary horse the treacherous political and racial landscape of Kentucky before and during the Civil War. Brooks, a White writer, risks criticism for appropriation by telling portions of these alternating storylines from Jarret’s and Theo’s points of view in addition to those of Jess and several other White characters. She demonstrates imaginative empathy with both men and provides some sardonic correctives to White cluelessness, as when Theo takes Jess’ clumsy apology—“I was traumatized by my appalling behavior”—and thinks, “Typical….He’d been accused, yet she was traumatized.” Jarret is similarly but much more covertly irked by well-meaning White people patronizing him; Brooks skillfully uses their paired stories to demonstrate how the poison of racism lingers. Contemporary parallels are unmistakable when a Union officer angrily describes his Confederate prisoners as “lost to a narrative untethered to anything he recognized as true.…Their fabulous notions of what evils the Federal government intended for them should their cause fail…was ingrained so deep, beyond the reach of reasonable dialogue or evidence.” The 21st-century chapters’ shocking denouement drives home Brooks’ point that too much remains the same for Black people in America, a grim conclusion only slightly mitigated by a happier ending for Jarret.

Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-39-956296-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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