An observant and heartfelt but technically flawed collection.

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THE WORLD’S LARGEST PERPETUALLY FULL BIRDFEEDER/BEEHIVE

Armstrong’s debut book of poetry reflects on the beauty and destructiveness of humankind.

In this thematically diverse collection of poems, Armstrong reflects topics that include his personal struggles with issues such as aging, isolation, and inner turmoil. Divided into three sections—“Modern Life,” “Life, Loss, and Family” and “Science, Nature, and the Universe”—his book also scrutinizes the tyranny of major corporations and their impact on the environment. The poem “The World’s Largest Perpetually Full Bird Feeder/Bees Nest” proves a tender, whimsical opening, in which a huge tree stump is repurposed by the poet: “I drilled and drilled all over the tree / The perfect size for the solitary bee…” The tenor of the poetry rapidly changes with poems such as “Legalized Fraud or Marketing,” which pours vitriol on the corporate world: “Corporate sows the seeds of deceit and fear / Eat this pill, use this cream, or die right here…” Other poems deal with war, the afterlife, the difficulties of learning to play the guitar, and the importance of respecting nature. Armstrong’s writing has the power to surprise with its brutal wisdom. In “Stupid Poem,” about humankind’s failures, he notes: “Squirrels have managed the forests / With a brain the size of a pea / Humans took over the management / And fucked it up in less than a century.” The lines may not scan perfectly, but they present an inescapable truth. Armstrong’s poetry is peppered with evocative imagery, as in “Beginning A New Life” where the “underground trains” are “crammed with people like pickle jars.” There is a naive beauty to the poem “Travelling,” about love beyond death: “When our remains dissolve into matter / I will hold your hand as we scatter.” One significant drawback is Armstrong’s reliance on rhyming that is often disappointingly elementary. The inappropriate singsong rhyme scheme employed in poems such as “Death” results in the oversimplification of a complex and somber subject: “Of course, death is the end / It doesn’t seem to bend / It doesn’t seem to mend / It has no friend.” This book has some clever and touching moments, but unsophisticated rhyming results in an inevitable loss of gravitas.

An observant and heartfelt but technically flawed collection.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5255-6138-2

Page Count: 78

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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