An enjoyable and informative poetic survey.

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A POETRY OF BIRDS

POEMS ABOUT BIRDS AND THE PHOTOGRAPHS THAT INSPIRED THEM

Poet Liberthson and photographer LeValley fuse their talents to put forth a passionate ode to more than three dozen species of birds.

Throughout this book, the author simultaneously studies and lauds the beauty of each avian subject—from snowy egrets to song sparrows to great blue herons that his partner, LeValley, photographs. Each free verse poem is dedicated to a different species and is accompanied by its own sharp, gorgeous photo. Many stanzas include facts about species’ mating and hunting rituals. Liberthson’s main strength lies in his animated, theatrical descriptions; he lingers on the “violet velvet gorget of the hummingbird” and the “black gimlet pupils” of the red-tailed hawk that “stab / the sky’s soft underbelly.” He also whistles the notes of the yellow-rumpled warbler: “tew-tew-tew-tew cheep!” On the whole, however, the brief, descriptive poems often fail to move beyond the photos’ superficial aspects. Liberthson’s most poignant verses are those that enhance, rather than deconstruct, the “improbable, outrageous” lives of these species. For instance, when observing the brown-headed cowbird, the poet takes on a playful, imaginative tone, asking the avian, “have you narrowed your eye slightly / in a hint of a wink?” The poet occasionally expands on his own personal reaction to each avian (“O you feisty little fucker!” he exclaims at the sight of the hummingbird). But more often than not, readers find out little about the experiences that led to such reactions. At times, the poet also slips into ornithological observation, which is less immersive (“Circumpolar Arctic breeders…Your breeding males forcefully defend their territory / but females make the laws: monogamy and polyandry rule”). These minor shortcomings aren’t dealbreakers, however, and this illustrated collection will please all species of birders.

An enjoyable and informative poetic survey.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9787683-4-8

Page Count: 70

Publisher: Gatekeeper Press

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

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ANXIOUS PEOPLE

Eight people become unlikely friends during a hostage situation created by an inept bank robber.

In a town in Sweden, a desperate parent turns to bank robbery to help pay the rent. Unfortunately, the target turns out to be a cashless bank, which means that no robbery can take place. In an attempt to flee the police, the would-be perpetrator runs into a nearby apartment building and interrupts an open house, causing the would-be buyers to assume they're being held hostage. After the situation has ended with an absent bank robber and blood on the carpet, a father-and-son police pair work through maddening interviews with the witnesses: the ridiculous realtor; an older couple who renovates and sells apartments in an effort to stay busy; a bickering young couple expecting their first child; a well-off woman interested only in the view from the balcony of a significant bridge in her life; an elderly woman missing her husband as New Year’s Eve approaches; and, absurdly, an actor dressed as a rabbit hired to disrupt the showing and drive down the apartment price. Backman’s latest novel focuses on how a shared event can change the course of multiple people’s lives even in times of deep and ongoing anxiousness. The observer/narrator is winding and given to tangents and, in early moments, might distract a bit too much from the strongly drawn characters. But the story gains energy and sureness as it develops, resulting in moments of insight and connection between its numerous amiable characters.

A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6083-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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