Book Review: Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil


Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s collection Oceanic is specifically personal and intentionally global at the same time, and in that contrast it builds a welcoming entry point for many different readers. The marine motifs disappear and return throughout, but Nezhukumatathil’s clear voice is the sea in which these poems scuttle and breathe. Many surprises to find.

My favorite poems in this volume:
*Self-Portrait as Scallop
*End-of-Summer Haibun
*The Two Times I Loved You Most on a Farm
*Letter to the Northern Lights
*The Psyche poems
*First Time on the Funicular

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Book Review: Descender, Vol. 1 & 2 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars

Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[This review is for Volumes One and Two.]

Come for the art, stay for the story. The imagery and color that Dustin Nguyen uses to create this science fiction world are absolutely stunning. These volumes manage to be disturbing in a beautiful way, with the cute and the grotesque coexisting in harmony. The story by Lemire is slower to start, but really gears up in Volume Two with plenty of surprises and enjoyable suspense. Well-trodden AI vs. human and “lost child” tropes are employed, but it’s a comic, so am I really upset about that? I came for a sense of escape and visual delight, and on that front Descender certainly delivers.

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Book Review: Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Silver in the Wood (The Greenhollow Duology, #1)

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novella is filled with old magic and new. Sometimes it is so enjoyable to reach for a story that is quietly lush, immersive, and simple, and that is what Emily Tesh delivers here. A beautiful fantasy tale (with queer characters!) that feels as weathered and inviting as an old leather-bound tome.

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Book Review: Soft Science by Franny Choi

Soft Science

Soft Science by Franny Choi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Choi’s poetry is innovative, unafraid, and visceral in so many surprising ways in her collection Soft Science. The unifying concept is a fusion of science and soul, technology and body, as she uses poems crafted around the Turing Test as a frame for the different sections of the book. As detached as the poems can intentionally be, often self-referencing as a “cyborg,” they are also deeply personal. Choi’s work lives in a place that is foreign but familiar, human but more (or less). The structure in many of these poems carries a particular kind of cool.

My favorites in this collection:
*All six “Turing Test” poems
*Making Of
*On the Night of the Election
*A Brief History of Cyborgs
*I Swiped Right on the Borg

and especially
*Perihelion: A History of Touch
*Introduction to Quantum Theory

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Book Review: Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson

Lord of the Butterflies

Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andrea Gibson is an extraordinarily powerful poet. I was so lucky to see Andrea perform in Green Bay about a year ago, and revisiting the poems on the page brings back the memory of that fire. This collection approaches gender, violence, and humanity with a voice that is tender in both its passion and its rage. It is a voice that is honest and disruptive, but always in the service of love. While I am so happy to have this volume on paper, it does not compare to experiencing the collection in performance–Andrea’s delivery is an essential ingredient in experiencing these poems in their full power.

My favorites from this collection:
Living Proof
First Love

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Book Review: What’s a Hostess to Do? by Susan Spungen

What's a Hostess to Do?

What’s a Hostess to Do? by Susan Spungen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Does your inner 1950’s housewife really miss your grandma (an actual 1950’s housewife) telling you what to do in terms of the proper way to create, display, and serve a proper meal on a gorgeous table? This book will fill that void. Susan Spungen makes it her job to be flawless and to help the flawed among us be that way, too. At once a deeply practical and ludicrously formal guide, this is a resource to help us make new magic in our entertaining life and push beyond lazy parties grounded by pizzas and potato chips. Spungen will inspire you to get the good dishware out of the back of the cabinet and actually plan a menu. I’ve always been a big believer in showing a deep respect for guests through artistry and small comforts, and this book was a fascinating look into the many, many ways one can accomplish that. The dinner party is becoming a lost art and I salute Spungen’s old school commitment to resurrecting it. I know I’ll treasure–and use–this handbook for many, many years to come.

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Book Review: The Turquoise Ledge by Leslie Marmon Silko

The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir

The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir by Leslie Marmon Silko

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Leslie Marmon Silko is one of my literary heroes–her searing, gorgeous novel Ceremony is one of my favorite books of all time. So, I deeply enjoyed this chance to hang out with her in her desert memoir The Turquoise Ledge. The book itself can be repetitive and unremarkable, but it’s less of a book and more of a long sit-down at the kitchen table with your grandmother, as she tells you about the special rocks she saw on her walks and the animals she saw in her garden and what’s been going on with her dogs and parrots and the weather and a little bit of religion and mysticism rolled in because that’s important, you know! I don’t think Silko would mind me saying that I liked this book not because of the book itself, but because of her. (Also, her supernaturally aided feud with her neighbor, because don’t all grandmothers have one of those, too?)

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