O’Hay chronicles life with the drunks, junkies and gamblers. A newly married man in New Orleans, sick with the need for...

FAR FROM LUCK

 

Poems and photographs that capture life on the street among the down and out, as well as commentary on the decline of nearly everything.

O’Hay chronicles life with the drunks, junkies and gamblers. A newly married man in New Orleans, sick with the need for alcohol, steals a shot of booze at a bar just before “the bouncer’s hand on my shoulder / tells me I am paper, tosses me to the curb.” A junkie with a grotesquely swollen leg panhandles near a hotdog stand, asking for $4 for his “prescription.” A street hustler recites the names of the dead “as if lighting candles.” Interspersed with these character sketches and stories are poems about family, as well as poems that showcase the author’s sharp eye and sardonic wit: Preachers at a rest stop don’t realize that the difference between the poet and themselves is that “when they get to Hell / they’ll be surprised.” Alien conquerors will surely decide that the Earth isn’t worth keeping, and should be tossed like “a bruised peach / back on the pile.” One standout poem from the collection is “Inheritor.” It imagines an ancient, wild and undefined thing “pacing” the poet when he was 7 years old, sitting in the back of his grandfather’s car in the “thick shadows that skirt the tree line.” O’Hay’s work is gritty, keen and sympathetic without being condescending. Some of his imagery is especially striking—a pair of cardinals fight on his lawn “like two blood stains / in love with the same / bullet”—made all the more so by his clear, straightforward language throughout. The book includes black-and-white photographs of Philadelphia’s homeless taken by the author, and a portion of the book’s proceeds goes to a nonprofit that services Philly’s homeless community.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466362741

Page Count: 132

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2012

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With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the...

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.

Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?

With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984991808

Page Count: 389

Publisher: First Snow Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

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A fun adventure for anyone who’d love to see a few spunky kids trick some bad-news pirates.

FREEBOOTER'S PARADISE

A DANGEROUS TANDEM ADVENTURE

Pirates, magic and a secret society collide in this fantasy middle-grade novel.

This fast-paced novel follows best friends Cameron and Miguel, who are looking for adventure while cruising through their Arizona town on a tandem bicycle. They find it when an enchanted pirate ship flies overhead and lands in a convenience store’s parking lot. The ship sets up as a shop, which uses an intoxicating mist to trick customers into buying overpriced sea-themed merchandise, while simultaneously making them defenseless against pickpocket pirates. Cameron has bigger problems when Blackbeard, the ship’s intimidating captain, decides that the tween has stolen a powerful ring that would allow him to shape-shift into any person he imagines. Raising the stakes, the pirates kidnap Miguel and force him to perform grunt work with no chance of release. Cameron enlists the help of his best gal pal, Marcella, to free Miguel, but their mission takes a surprising turn when they discover a secret society protecting an underground gold mine. Author Loge keeps the action coming as the trio encounter a nasty doppelganger, a sinister talking parrot and a gang of violent pirates. The breezy writing ensures that the story doesn’t get stale. With so many quick twists and turns, young readers could get lost along the way, but Loge clearly explains all the unexpected changes to keep his audience on track. In addition to a sprinkling of black-and-white illustrations, Cameron’s easy friendship with Miguel and Marcella keeps things light and youthful when the tale could have been bogged down with one too many odd, mystical events. The heart of the book—a young boy as the chosen one who must defeat an evil enemy—has been a common YA plotline in recent years, but Loge’s energetic style makes the theme seem fresh.

A fun adventure for anyone who’d love to see a few spunky kids trick some bad-news pirates.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2012

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